Here , because No one else needed it
January 1st 2004
There is something about a death that invites scandal, the universal truth of life draws us towards it like flies attracted to a flame. We love to watch the dance of death, hold our perfumed hand-kerchiefs to ward off its smell and talk to rid death of its morbidity but we cannot deny the magnetism that death has.
The whole house is in a mayhem, police, reporters, neighbors, relatives everyone have gathered, the whole house is full of people..... Something that she would have hated, yet would have loved, for she always loved being the centre of attraction.
She lay there, the room cleaned.... she had never bothered about that ever before, now it was spick and span, save the murky smell of the body mingled with the perfume bottle that lay empty.
It was as though she had anticipated death to enter with his overpowering stench and had decided to stall the stench, if only for a few hours.
Her teddy clutched in her arms, her diary lay closed next to her, and a doll lay broken on the pillow. These were the only things she had loved since ever. These were the only things she thought she would leave behind.
12 years ago
Megha accompanied her mother to see her 6th standard results. She had stood 11th... she cowered in fear when she saw her mother's rage barely disguised in front of her teacher. She heard her teacher, and these words were to ring as clear as a bell until her last day. "She has an attitude problem, she is stubborn, arrogant, never listens to anyone, will never talk to anyone either. I asked her to get your signature on the report card and you won’t believe it, she forged the signatures!!!!" If only thoughts were swords, Megha would have killed her teacher and her mother would have killed her.
Later at home, Megha stood in the corner of her room like a fielder having a bad day ... one who has been unable to take a single catch. She faced both curses and slaps that hurt from both her parents.
1998 - February - 15th
Megha is the darling of her class, she stands first in debates, she speaks excellent English, she can talk extempore on almost any subjects given to a 12th standard kid, she has beautiful grades ... she is beginning to make friends, she has just found out that there is a world out there to explore, a world that can be liked if not loved ... she has the talent in her, fueled with her suppressed anger and cynicism, moved by the pessimism within her, the talent can take her places. She laughs and leads the group. It is here that she will make friends who will mourn her loss until their last day.
In loneliness though the demons haunt her, the increasing domestic turbulence only adds to her resilience and increases her tolerance. She gets hard with every increasing day.
2000 - March - 31st
All her lecturers love her. She is the perfect student they had dreamt about. She is the prodigal student that every teacher waits for.
She is the clay that everyone wants to mould. She has a talent that no one else has... she has the retention power, she can recite on the last day of the class the example given on the first day with the figures, she can calculate at lightening speed, what others take a period to understand , she needs a minute. All the relatives and friends, who had looked down upon her love her, quote her as an example.
She too thinks she has finally conquered her demons; after all it takes some one to get a National Rank.
Her Lecturers and friends are the people she will remain grateful until her last day, she will mention them in her death note.
2002 - March - 31st
She is on the top of the world. She has gotten the admission letter of IIM Ahemdabad; she has topped her CAT and is waiting to reach out for the stars. All the more reason for happiness is the fact that in the past few months, she has someone who loves her, loves her truly. She has got the love that she has pined for her whole life. He will be the only one whom she will remember on her last day for all contradicting reasons.
Megha has always been used to losing things. She has never realised how it is to keep things "forever" whatever "forever" means.
She does not know the meaning of "Forever"; now she will, she will know what is "forever" for she is going to remain dead forever.
What she does know is however anger, disgust and intolerance ... why and how are questions that have haunted her forever. The only hope I can have for her is that they do not haunt her now "forever". She does not hope so, for she does not know what hope means either. She has long back stopped asking "Why Me" ... now she no longer will, there is no "Me" for Megha now.
Today - the Date and Time Do not Matter Anymore Now.
All that matters is that it is the day and time after Megha’s death.
“I dont know why .... I did not care if she was fat or thin, beautiful or ugly ... She was my friend, she meant a lot to me, did not she know that ... did she not think of us Tony?” A friend mourned her loss.
“Greg, she was a sis to me yaar ... no matter how far I was , which city I was in she would send me a rakhi unfailingly every year man ... Why did she do this to me, Why did God do this to me?” Another wept near her rotting corpse.
Tony – the unfailing friend -“We were around..., we, her friends were around,
I would have protected her if it meant taking my own life man, why did she do this to herself?”
“I always knew that the child was wrong, she had the vibes and I could feel it, intelligence does not get anyone anywhere .... Attitude does ... she was arrogant and stubborn, that’s what got her here. In a way she deserved it. Typical of her, leave her parent and siblings alone when they most needed her.” - Ganga the aunt.
“Now that she is gone, who will pay for my expenses and studies? When dad died, she was around; it was her responsibility to do it after all she was the eldest in the house. Now she chooses to die when I just get a seat in Medicine ... how like her!” - Priya a sister.
“Oh my God , I accept she did shoulder two younger sisters and all that , but then , yeah , it was her duty to do so man ... you know she always made it known that she was the one with the burden man .... Else, why else study and work at the same time? Why couldn’t she just let go of studies? A huge show off, even in death.... look at that, the perfume is so expensive, she never gave an ounce of it.... a gift thats what she called it, and now ........” - Tanya the other sister.
“She was born when I did not want her, now she dies when I need her the most. So what if we said things about her, we only said things that were true , she was dark , she was ugly and fat , aren’t they true , does one take such a drastic step for this .... Now the world will blame me for it.
No one will know that she ruined my aspirations of becoming a successful model.... bearing her made my taut skin go saggy and all that , her father was a sick man , always on the bed and what this girl coming on so soon ... who will know my grief?”
“Good she is gone, even as a child, she took away my husband from me .... You know when she was just six; she would act shy and run away when my husband touched her? Maybe he was attracted by that and.... you know..... When I caught her at it... at 6 this girl had the audacity to say my husband asked her to play a game with him where she would stand as still as a rock no matter what he did. She even said that he gave her sweets if she stood really still. She was bad this girl very bad ... that’s why she grew up ugly.”
“You know perfect ness can never last, well, Im not saying she was perfect but you know who can have a memory like that fine, which can have brilliancy that is unparalleled? It had to end; else we would have to end ourselves by that feeling of inferiority.”
Many words said, a few tears shed and a corpse burnt.... memories felt, some torn, some discarded, some respectful and some full of hatred and envy. I could feel all of them as she lay there..... I could not stand the atmosphere for a day, I wondered how she had borne it for all her life, but yet, she had not ended her life, she had always tried meeting everyone's expectations.... it was not her fault ... not now , not "Forever". There is still one thing that I need to do.... maybe she wanted to do too ... could not do it because she was so ugly........ ..... ..... ..... I need to do it for her ... to prove her that she was not ugly, or may be that she was ... for the last time.
I had to do it, I dont know why, but I had to do it.
The Prologue after the Epilogue.
I trudged my way to Kolkata all the way from Chennai.
Seemed like ages before I got there. I had the address... but it was old ... it was the address he had given me when he left Chennai, and that was almost 4 years old.
I cursed, raved and ranted about the changes in the unfamiliar landscape of Kolkata ... old numbers replaced by new, old houses which had made way for the new ones. The unending list of Chaottopadhya's and Mukherjee's whose tenant my friend was supposed to be was sifted thoroughly to reach a reasonable conclusion. After an extensive search (the CID would be proud of me, no doubt) I finally located him. His name, his occupation are not important, all that is important is that it is him.... the "him" who once belonged to "her".
I was walking down a lane in which he was supposed to live, when I saw this small girl.
I estimated her age to be not more than 3 at the most, walking cautiously at the edge of the road, but precariously near the gutter, determination n her eyes, anger in her stride and cuteness filled in her face. I lifted her almost as she was about to fall in the way side gutter.
"Where are you going" I asked the little angel.
"I want to buy a kite, pappu wont allow me, so Im running away from home".
She reminded me so much of Megha... her air of petty arrogance; her baby talk reminded me of a corpse I had last seen rotting in its own bed. "Whats you name, sweetie?"
"Dont Call me Sweetie!! My name is Megha."
Had I heard it right? Was my imagination playing tricks with me? Megha? Had I heard it right? After some persuasion and a kite, she decided to show me her home. I heard a harried voice calling the kid's name and immediately felt self conscious... may be I should leave the child and go, as it is I was a stranger there and suddenly felt conscious of my hands around the child’s waist and bottom. I suddenly felt like a kidnapper and a molester and what not, I made to lower the kid when I saw him come out of the nondescript home calling her name.
“Megha, where were you darling? Who gave you the kite?”
When the kid showed its little accusatory finger toward me, all I got from him was a single appraising glance and nothing extra, until his daughter completed her story.
He was a diligent father, for which he made all the appropriate noises and then turned his attention toward me only after his daughter was happy and contented about her story and her kite.
A flicker of recognition and whoop of joy greeted me. I smiled in return and went in. He introduced me to his daughter Megha (now formally) and his new born beauty whom he wanted to name Meghana and his wife.
A calm and contented family.... his apparent happiness set my innards to fire. There is that burning mass lying in the cemetery and here is this guy who claimed to love her leading a perfectly sane, happy, contented and well-loved life. So much for love!
After a couple of days, my (once Megha’s, I had taken it from her when I saw her there in her bed.) diary read...
Ive been in his house for more than 2 days now, the family's sense of hospitality is impeccable. They are a contended family... whatever did Megha do not to deserve this?
This man is a hypocrite, she loved him to the last breath of her life, and he leads a life with another woman, begetting children from the very first year of marriage! He has asked about everything and everyone, but about Megha. I haven’t told him that a long lost love of his is lost "forever”, I haven’t told him ... I will not, I do not want another person abusing her memory. I shall not broach the subject. I shall not give him the opportunity to say "she deserved it". No I won’t.
The third day, I packed my bags, he had insisted that I leave the modest hotel I was staying in , and move into his home, which I had complied with. I was leaving, he accompanied me to the railway station... little Megha playing in his arms, he finally asked the sentence I was waiting for.
"Haws Megha?" the words tumbled out, like water gushing through a geyser. "Megha Happy Papa" my cutie replied, stressing on each syllable. I could see the father's affection run through him.
"No dearie, not little Megha, the Megha whose name you share".
I was dumbfounded. He saw my expression and understood,
"I have always loved Megha.... she still means the world to me. I wanted to give her the love she never had, I wanted to give her the family she wanted; but then I made a mistake... I yet dont know if it was a mistake.
I still love her... like a father now. I have two little Meghas with me ... Megha and Meghana. I want them to grow up like her ... but without her sorrow and her dank secrets. She has forever been my inspiration." I dont know whether the toddler understood what her father spoke, but she piqued in "Megha small wants to be like Megha big. Pappu says, Megha big, very beautiful and intelligent. Megha small learning to be intelligent."
I smiled. I did not have the heart to say that his Megha was dead. I did not have the heart to say that she did not commit suicide, but died of trying to meet expectations, she was so used to meet expectations that her efforts lead to her eventual death. It was not suicide. It was a cold blooded murder.
I did not want to tell him that she left him because his touch reminded her of the "uncle" who had played "games" with her shattering her innocence.
For here, Megha was alive, she was full of energy here, and she would get all the love she wanted forever.
Megha would never die; she would always live in him and after him, in his daughters.
For the first time in that month, I saw Megha in my mind's eye and I saw her happy and smiling rather than the rotting corpse in the stale room.
I gave the broken bottle of perfume to him and gave the kid the teddy and the broken doll ... the toddler was happy with them, her father recognized them. "So did she get married? Is that why she sent you to return them? Is she happy?"
"Yes" I replied. "She is happy and will be happy forever."
As my train left for its destination, I saw the father-daughter duo, I saw Megha, I saw a ray of light, I saw hope and happiness, and I saw "Forever".