While five buses were set blazing on the arterial Eastern Metropolitan Bypass road, Riha stood frozen at the kitchen door of the small hut in the slums nearby. On getting the news sometimes back, she had come running to Harish’s house, but she hadn’t been able to walk up to the lady sitting near the fire. While there was commotion outside, her heart was apathetic to it and all because of the lady who sat stoic looking at the fire burning in front of her. Her eyes! They were ablaze; the ‘chulha’ seemed alive not because of the charcoal but for the gaze. There was not a single drop of tear in it, and it didn’t move a minuscule despite of all the humdrum outside. Riha badly wanted to walk up to her, but she couldn’t fathom courage to walk up to Renu, the lady sitting near the fire.
While she stood at the door, thoughts started filling her mind! It began infiltrating her present with the moments of togetherness, the moments when her carefree lover Harish used to make comments on her ‘ugly-beauty’.
Harish – Her life! Unlike her, he was ‘Std. X fail’ and had not taken any initiative of studying since the day their school teacher had caught them red-handed playing some nasty games in the garden. Riha was a shameless girl, and in spite of all the insults, she had neither stopped loving her childhood romance nor had she stopped going to school. Coming from suburbs, she was one of the rarest species, who had completed studying Std. XII and was working as a nurse at a Government hospital.
On the other hand, her dear man used to drive an auto. Riha’s shift timings were mostly at the wee hours, and that was also their time for romance. They used to meet an hour before her shift and again spend an hour together post her duty hours. She mostly preferred the night shifts as foreplay in the auto was their best sport and the wee hours suited it.
Harish – The fatherless child. He had lost his father at a nascent stage, and his mother was his world. Renu used to work as a cook in a ‘dhaba’ near the EM Bypass, and it seemed nothing else mattered to her except her son. No, his father was not dead, but he had left them for some other lady and lived in the suburb nearby. He used to hit his mother often so the day he left them, they were more relieved than grief-stricken and moreover it wasn’t anything new happening in their ‘chawl.’ Harish and Renu shared a lovely bond, and fortunately for Riha, Renu had accepted her as her prospective daughter-in-law, without any hassle. They often used to go out together, and she was a regular guest at their house. Why were they not married yet? Even Riha didn’t know; might be because of the whimsical dreams of Harish. Riha smiled thinking about them…’his dreams’..
Harish – The dreaming boy! He had big plans. He had started earning at an early age, driving an auto for daily commuters, but he had dreams to be a chauffeur of a Hummer. He loved cars and shared an incredible friendship with the cars. He used to say that he had already taken the first step towards his dream as he already owned an auto when he had asked for Riha’s hands in marriage, from her parents. When he was not driving the auto or spending time with Riha or his other friends, he worked in a garage and was even considered as the best mechanic there. Thanks to his scope of work, Riha had got the chance to ride an i10 one day and a Swift Desire the other day; just yesterday they had to take the Swift Desire to the owner’s house, post repairing for delivery. During these deliveries, Harish used to take her with him, and just a few blocks away from the house he used to drop her near some tea stall. Riha used to wait there for Harish and then they used to walk back home, chatting, talking about the past, and planning for the future. Others might think it to be impossible, but in one occasion, they had even walked all the way from Jadavpur to Chingrighata! When she was with Harish, time flew. Even after ten years, they never seemed to grow bored of each other.
Memories… memories… memories..They knew no bounds and had no end!
Her thoughts were suddenly disrupted by a loud sound from somewhere, and she jolted back to the present. She had to hold the door for balancing herself as the jolt was quite a harsh one. Where was Harish? Had he not gone to purchase gifts for his friend’s marriage? She was at the hospital when she heard about the accident because of which the slum dwellers had set five buses on fire. She was waiting for him to come and was cursing him for being late when she had heard about the two guys being hit by a bus post breaking the signal.
As she was trying hard to bind the threads of her thoughts, she saw four men entering from the main door of the hut with a mass wrapped in a white sheet. The man leading them, shouted something like,” Mashi, we have killed those scoundrels!” Even before she could fathom what was happening, she thought she saw a smirk on Renu’s lips, and with tear laden eyes, she looked up at Riya to only utter those few words, before turning toward the dead body of Harish,
“Go away, girl; you have no place in this house anymore.”
This post has first appeared on momspresso: