Rupa stood at her balcony watching the lazy Sunday afternoon
and wondering what to do with the rest of the day. Summer
vacations are boring. She follows the solitary kite circling
high up in the sky. It is as lonely as me, she thinks.
Just then the phone rings. Seeing an unknown number, she
disconnects. Immediately it rings back. She answers it
‘Helloooo Indro!’ she screams excitedly into the phone.
’What happened to your other number?’
‘This is my new number.’
‘When did you come?’
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Wanted to hear you scream my name!’
‘Stop it!’ she says laughs good humouredly. ‘How’s
‘Mr. Casanova lonely?’ Rupa chuckles into the phone.
‘Movie with Casanova? Today matinee?’
‘You are a darling!’ In her mind she was already before
the wardrobe picking an outfit for the day.
‘Hey listen, call up some more friends, ok? We need
eighteen in all.’
‘Whatt?’ she asks puzzled.
‘Because it’s written, ‘below eighteen not
‘Uff, Indro!’ she giggles adoringly.
They saw ‘Bitter Moon’.
‘Oh what a butt!’
‘Disgusting! All you notice in a Roman Polanski film is
‘No! I saw her legs too. Wow!’
‘Can’t believe it, Indro! ‘Bitter Moon’ is just
about Mimi’s body to you?
Ok tell me. What is it about?
‘Love, exploitation…. life.’
‘What’s so special about their life? A sadist living
with a masochist.’
‘And the way he exploited her?’
‘Don’t say he exploited her. She let herself be
exploited. Why didn’t she leave him?’
‘Because she loved him. It made her vulnerable. Is that a
‘If love makes you vulnerable, it is a fault.’
‘How she craved for his support.’
‘Well he didn’t give a damn. So leave him, girl!’
‘It’s that easy to leave the person you love?’
‘If the person I love tries to exploit me, I’ll divorce
her. Pronto. En seguida!’
‘With all your Spanish garnishing, ‘divorce’ still
remains an ugly word!’
‘Life is both beautiful and ugly. If you can’t handle
the ugly, you suffer. Why blame others?
‘You are so uncaring Indro!’ It was almost a
‘Me, uncaring?’ Indro stops in the middle of the road in
profound shock. ‘Look at me, Ru! Here stands the most
tender-hearted person on earth!’
‘You speak so casually about divorce.’ She refuses to be
‘I am serious about marriage! Marry me! See for
yourself!’ Indro flashes his charming smile and spreads
both arms on either side dramatically.
Rupa ignores his playfulness and continues gravely. ‘How
can you not sympathize with Mimi?’
‘Of course, I sympathize. You have no idea what an
extremely soft-hearted, domesticated person I am!’
‘Aha, now you bring in astrology?’
‘I am not bringing in Astrology Ru, right now I am INTO
astrology. Whooo …what a subject! Want to see my
‘Not today. It’s late.’
‘Then tomorrow? I have news for you.’
‘What? Tell me!’ Rupa asks eagerly.
‘Come home. I’ll tell you then.’
‘This is not fair! Too much suspension!’ she grumbles.
She thinks for a moment. ‘Ok, tomorrow.’
Indro gives her hand a joyous squeeze.
‘See you tomorrow!’
He reminds her of Kishanji on ma’s puja altar. The one
with a ball of kheer in his hand. Mischievous, charming,
Rupa sat on the bed absorbed in thought. The big fat book on
Cheiro lay open on her lap. She is yet to recover from the
sudden jolt. Indro is leaving for Italy to study, in just
two weeks! That’s his big news! She feels something tug
inside. She knows she should be happy for him but all she
can feel is an unusual void. It was okay for him to be in
Chandigarh but Italy that's too far away! She looks at
Indro, sitting a little away at his desk browsing through
Linda Goodman. After going through Rupa’s birth chart, he
deciphered her future just sometime back: she was going to
marry a rich guy very soon and settle abroad. Rupa dismissed
him with a scowl. She was in no mood for such trifles. Her
heart was heavy with Indro’s thoughts. She couldn’t bear
to think how much she’ll miss his craziness.
‘How could you keep it from me all these days, Indro?’
There’s hurt in her voice.
‘Things were uncertain. Didn’t want to talk about it
until confirmed…you know I’m a little
‘A little?’ Even in her sadness, she laughs out.
‘But you will be going abroad too, won’t you? Soon?’
there's a quiet sting in his voice.
‘You don’t mean that prediction of yours?’ She asks
‘Why not?’ he retorts. ‘What’s wrong with my
She can’t believe Indro is serious about it.
‘These are speculations, Indro, not real.’
‘These are mathematical calculations based on
‘I have no faith in them.’
Outside, the brazen summer wind carried the dry drifted
flowers of the yellow Gulmohor tree and scattered them on
the pavement. The plants in the balcony crisped and withered
in the scorching sun. An ardent koel kept calling its mate;
its relentless cries reverberated through the still mufassil
afternoon. The thickly drawn curtains made the room dark and
‘It’s dark! Put on the light.’
Instead of reaching for the switch, Indro abruptly leaves
his chair and reaches the bed. With one sweep of his arm, he
lifts Rupa onto the bed and pitches her down with both
hands. The sudden pace of events takes Rupa by surprise and
before she can think, she feels Indro’s warm mouth on her
bewildered lips. She tries to resist but goes limp at his
wanton kiss. She responds in reflex. Her whole body
responds! She lets him suck her lips into a pulp.
Bending over her face, Indro hisses, ‘Tell me you won’t
leave me! Tell me you’ll marry me!’
Coming to her senses, Rupa pushes him with both hands. He
has heavy shoulders.
‘Tell me you enjoyed the kiss!’
She looks away to hide her blush. An acute pleasure races
through her body. She tries to sit up.
Indro holds her firmly by the shoulders. His intensity
‘Tell me you enjoyed my kiss!’
‘No I didn’t.’
‘Liar!’ Indro hisses again.
‘Just because girls swoon on you, must I too?’
‘Why will I be jealous?’
‘Because you love me.’
‘I don’t love you!’
Indro leaves the bed and goes to the window. With a restless
gesture, he pulls the curtains aside. The room surges forth
with warm brightness. A woman was standing at her balcony in
the adjacent building. Can she see her? Can she feel the
sizzling heat of the room?
The woman moves away. Rupa looks at her crumpled kurta. It
takes her a while to regain composure. She places the
dupatta on her shoulders and stands up. ‘Can’t we be
friends?’ she says, almost to herself, ‘Just good
friends?’ And kiss!
Indro sat dejectedly holding his head in his palms. She
could hear his heart break into a thousand pieces. When he
looked up, his eyes glistened with emotion. ‘Don’t be
hasty, Ru. You’re young. Maybe you’ll change your
‘Or maybe you’ll change your mind Indro! You’re as
young as me!’
She could see his adam’s apple bobbing up and down, a vein
throbbing at his temple, his face tense with pent up
emotions. The room was charged with their wants and
‘I don’t want to marry you and I don’t want to lie to
He bent his head to stare at his hands. A wave of hair fell
over his forehead. He looked forlorn, sapped. The soulful
sight flooded Rupa with tenderness, affection, warmth. She
wanted to hold him in her arms and cover him with kisses.
She wanted to take back all the harsh words she said. But
she also knew that she didn’t want to marry him. Why does
it have to be so complicated?
She leaves him in the room and saunters downstairs. Maashi
was sitting in the hall, knitting.
‘Hello maashi!’ her voice betrays little enthusiasm.
Maashi looks up. ‘What happened? You two fighting
again?’ her voice is warm and affectionate.
‘What else!‘ Rupa quips, glad to get a cue. ‘Why is he
so crazy?’ She adds a fond smile.
‘He is an only child and over-pampered. I know. He does
act unreasonable at times, but his heart is pure gold.’
Rupa knows the undertones behind maashi’s words. She
chooses to overlook.
Suddenly she longed to be somewhere else, somewhere far
away. She needed to calm the mind, quieten her body, reclaim
‘Wait, I’ll fry you some crispy fritters.’
‘Not today Maashi, got to run. I’m already late!’
Maashi looks at her and then at the room upstairs.
‘Indro!’ She calls out. ‘Rupa says she’s
The tall lean figure of Indro emerges at the door of his
room. He looks composed.
‘Go see her off till the bus stop!’
‘Give me a minute!’ He goes into the room to put on his
crocs and ambles down the stairs.
Once out, she takes a deep breath. The warm clammy sweat
spreading under her arms and trickling down her back felt
cool where the breeze touched. The store round the corner
stood shut. The whole area was empty; only an old man pushed
his ice cream cart along the deserted mufassil street
oblivious of the blazing heat. He knows there are eager
young children behind the closed windows waiting for his
call. I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M!! The thought of ice cream sent a new
rush of heat through her body. ‘Tell me you enjoyed the
kiss!’ She moves her tongue over her lips. They feel
bruised. The tingling sensation excites her once again. She
goes back to the dark cool room to relive that reckless
moment of pleasure. The kiss has stirred up myriad of
pleasures, setting her body on fire. But Indro will never
know. It will merely fuel his obsession. Why, Indro? You are
just a boy of twenty! What do you know of marriage?
They walk in silence. Will this be their last walk together?
Will she never see him again? Why is she feeling this hollow
inside? Was Indro right? Is she in love with him?
At the bust stop, Indro takes her hand. ‘Won’t we meet
Rupa looks into his mournful eyes. I want to marry a
man, Indro, not a boy.
She says nothing.
He looks at her with longing. She looks at him with
Why does it hurt so much?
She turns away abruptly and walks towards an approaching
bus. From the window she sees Indro’s tall figure standing
in the distance like a lonely autumn tree - dried out,
May spring come and blossom him. She prays silently.
And what about you? A voice whispers within.
She looks away. She feels equally drained.
The bus takes her away like a giant wave, into the deep sea.
She stares hard through her tears.
They say the sea returns whatever it carries away.
Photo: Partha Pratim Chattopadhyay