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Published at 12th of January 2019 07:14:37 AM

Chapter 3


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Shimonthini looked for a familiar face among the crowd at the airport . Even the faces she searched for were strangers to her . Ten years can do a lot mischief to beauty and Shimonthini was not the girl of her youth anymore . Clad in an off white salwar kameez her face bore the signs of grief and the suspense of a union, a reunion on their part . Her shoulders stooped to give her a drooping appearance, the drooping flowers on the stems at evening ready to fall off yet still holding on to the last strand of life .

A voice jerked her from behind and she turned to see a spitting image of her younger self . Shinjini was her sister, her own blood bonded by more than blood . A successful interior designer, Shinjini owed her success to the sister who had run away . Shimonthini smiled wide at seeing her one success story unfold before her eyes . Because of her defiance to what was deemed a custom Shinjini was not married off at the tender age of eighteen like she was supposed to . Shimonthini was happy, too happy that her life had withstood the test of purpose . Without purpose the instrument of life seems so meaningless, inept at sustaining confidence in the beating of a heart or the drawing of a breath . Shimonthini's life, though empty at present did bear fruit to her sister's success .

Shinjini eyed her sister, run away from home at the tender age of eighteen, educated in a foreign country by money she earned no one knows how, helped by a relation they ostracized for her thoughts and working in a world they deemed unfit for survival . Shinjini expected a defiant wanton woman standing before her, someone she could naturally despise, someone she wouldn't have to be grateful for the money she sent for her education, someone who could be the lesser of the two . What she saw though was a demure silent woman with a face still wearing the mask of propriety without an ounce of pride, stripped of any self love that the world would blame her for . The defeated expression on Shimonthini's face would have evoked a tender emotion in every heart save for the heart that held her a culprit to her present station . Shinjini had spent her youth dreaming of marriage, of being pampered by a man enamoured with her, of being the mistress of her own household . The one thing that prevented her dreams from reaching reality was the tragic tale of her Moni di eloped a week before the date that was set for the wedding . Life played crude games where the despair of one became the dream of another .


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After years of waiting and months of convincing the date was finally at hand when she was to realize her dreams and settle down in a life of her choice . Did that have to be the moment when this woman had to return to her life? Shinjini's face spoke defiance and Shimonthini's spoke defeat . At that juncture a male figure proceeded from among the shadows to give a hug to the daughter he had almost wronged . Shinjini's face burnt with rage as the father she had known to be only hers for such a long time welcomed another into his heart .

Confinement is a poison for discipline . Discipline is learnt through respect and necessity rather than through a gauche set of rules obtuse towards any change and irreverent of any concessions . Shimonthini's life outside the confinement of her paternal dungeon, free from the social stigma and cultural oppression had infused in her a sense of discipline and a sense of respect her parents did not imagine possible . After Shimonthini's elopement they had tried hard to reign in the spirit of disobedience from the heart of their eight year old daughter Chini who grew to be the rebel Shinjini . Shinjini's natural reaction to the rules imposed upon her was compliance . She complied with all the rules but followed none . Thus she succeeded in deluding her parents of her conduct and her true aspirations to become their ideal daughter .

Mr . And Mrs . Hazra were the typical Bengali parents from a middle class home guided in their upbringing of their two daughters by all and sundry . Mrs . Hazra, the semi educated housewife aspired in her daughters the material fulfilments her own matrimony had failed to provide . Mr . Hazra had managed to procure a government job at the late age of thirty five . He owed his success to his cousin who was then a close associate of the reigning political party . That gratefulness prompted him to invite his cousin and his wife into their adjoining quarters . Even when they moved to a better apartment the thought of changing locality never occurred for that may lead to severance of ties with the revered leader . With every passing day the involvement between the two families grew till the elder daughter managed to bring shame upon the family . At that point of time the two families virtually merged into one . No one in the neighbourhood would dare to spread salacious remarks about Tapas Hazra's family . Subir Hazra lost his daughter and his position as the head of the family . The association was something akin to royalty till the ruling party was overthrown and the Hazras fell into a tight situation . The advantages they had enjoyed in the neighbourhood for being a Hazra stopped and were soon replaced by a disadvantage . That was the opportune moment when the cousin's wife brought forward a lucrative nuptial offer for the ideal daughter Shinjini .

Shinjini had always been loved by the Hazra's especially after she managed to procure a seat in the same college as the minister's son . What the family did not make known was that the education was made possible through funds that the local MLA did not supply but which came from half way across the world where their estranged daughter laid . Shinjini's involvement with college politics or with the politician's son was praised by her family till the same son was arrested for a **** attempt on a co-worker who swiftly changed sides to the new ruling party a week after filing the complaint .

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Under these circumstances this marriage proposal seemed like a blessing from above . The family in question was beyond wealthy and avoided political ties to the t . The required interactions that took place, for the sanctioning of a project or two, always occurred under the table, without arousing suspicion among many . The matriarch of the house was particular about remaining discreet and inconspicuous in all her dealings, whether they may be professional or personal . Her position in the family was somewhat questionable though no one dared to question her . The late patriarch Ramakanta Mukherjee was married to the gentle Damyanti Devi with whom he had three beautiful daughters . In his later years he married the aforementioned matriarch on the promise of begetting an heir . If the birth certificates of the eldest son Rahul be compared with the marriage certificate of the venerable couple some discrepancies regarding the legitimacy of the birth may have cropped up . But no one dares bite the hand that feeds them . The matriarch or Ginni ma as everyone lovingly referred to her was the saving grace to the Mukherjee family heritage who had held on to the families economic stature in times of recession by sheer wit and intellect, qualities in the business sphere that the Mukherjee scions definitely lacked .

Her two sons Rahul and Ravi were her emotional support though they had both proved themselves of no use . Her husband's first wife lived in the same house while her three daughters Priya, Puja and Tanaya had been married to venerable families and sent off . Her eldest son Rahul too was married though it ended badly with the woman dying in an accident rumoured to be a suicide . It was the younger son Ravi who was the prospective groom .

Shinjini was a lucky girl to be married into the Mukherjee family . Theirs was the rising business of the nation . They owned hotels from Kolkata to Kanyakumari and had their hands in all sorts of imports, legal of course . She spent the greater part of her drive home contemplating the points on which she was superior to her elder and worn out sister . Her sister was undoubtedly a widow, childless and in the fading years of her youth . Shimonthini would often glance sideways towards her sister who seemed to be engrossed in admiring the recent manicure she had got . Vain was a word that crossed her mind but she checked herself . Vanity was not something she was allowed in her time and it was a luxury she wouldn't deny her sister . A part of her felt affections towards her that was akin to motherhood . Perhaps she could have been a good mother, better than the daughter she had been, if Rishi was alive . That brought a tear to her eyes which she sniffed back drawing her sister's attention towards her .


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"I am getting married you know, this very weekend!" Shinjini explained .

Shimonthini forced a smile and hiding the pain on her face she nodded and remarked something about mother having mentioned it on the phone . What she didn't mention though was that if fates hadn't intervened she would be attending her wedding reception that very moment .

Shinjini in her self absorbance ignored the details that her sister's face would have revealed . "The family is very rich . " She went on . "The marriage has been arranged but Ravi is very handsome . " She said blushing red . In a conspiring hushed tone she added, "We even went on a few dates . He is a great kisser . " The last remark was associated with a rolling of her eyes that drew an involuntary chuckle from the silent listener .

Shimonthini tried her best to indulge her sister who was a child to her but almost a stranger . She looked at her and smiled at her joy her lips curling up of their own with her heart growing heavy at the slightest gesture . Yes her life was worth living if her sister could become the confident woman she was now because of her . She sighed and composed her posture and tried to muster up the courage to congratulate her but on a second thought she refrained for the cracking of her voice may dull the joy of the family she wished to return to once and for all .

The house in front of which the economy car came to a halt brought back a few memories . This was the house they had moved to when Shimonthini was only eleven years old . A lot of aspirations of the family lay within . The landlord was a kind man who was not angry if the rent was a few days behind . His son happened to be her first crush and the person to whom her wedding had been finalized . Crushes can often lead to heartbreak if you are bent on deluding yourselves with fantasies in the face of reality . That boy, who would have been a man, died due to drug overdose a dozen years back . Shimonthini was then studying for her graduation from a college in Shimla where her best friend's estranged mother lived . Reshmi never told her why her father had divorced Diya aunty but when she had called her best friend after running away on her own that was the address she asked her to go to and she did . Diya aunty couldn't make it to her wedding because of old age . She had asked her . She would have to explain to her later that Rishi was no more .

Sipra waited at the door for her daughters and her husband . She was proud of both of her daughters . Each fulfilled a dream that she cherished . Shimonthini travelled the world and Shinjini was marrying into a business dynasty . She was happy for both of them . It was not that she lacked any of the selflessness that we associate with motherhood . They were her daughters . It was her pride that they would not go through the same disappointments she did . Sometimes our own disappointments gain such huge proportions that we are blinded to the fact that every individual soul harbours unique dreams and desires . The constant association with her mother had rubbed some of her aspirations onto her younger daughter but the elder one stood aloof of the joy in her mother's heart . To her the meaning of satisfaction remained what it did fifteen years ago, to be acknowledged in her entirety .

Shimonthini was soon enveloped within her mother's arms and within the festivities of the impending wedding . She had had practice after all . No one among the entire family enquired of her marital status in the fearful of unveiling a fire they wouldn't be able to prevent from spreading, a fire that in the form of a scandal may burn out all their happiness . No one from the Mukherjee family knew about Shinjini's involvement with the minister's son . They would rather have them ignorant of Shimonthini very existence . Shimonthini understood the delicate situation and complied with it . She was lodged among the distant relatives who had come to attend the wedding . She realized that though the physical distance between her and her family had been taken out of the picture her extensive life abroad had introduced a new kind of difference that could not be so easily overcome . It was a cultural difference . Shimonthini was no longer the loud yet shy, conservative yet vivacious Bengali the likes of whom surrounded her . She felt like an outcast among her own, who did not belong . Her sense of belonging could never be restored .

Shimonthini remained in her personal oblivion and the days passed one by one . The rituals meant nothing to her . The customs seemed meaningless and she was an alien among their midst . She lurked in the corners and shadows fearful that her misfortune might befall her sister . Mechanically she greeted the guests whose faces she did not recognize and whose names she did not recall .

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