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“Let us go to the seashore,” Anil suggested.
Sunanda was excited with the suggestion, even when she was worried. She had seen sea only in the movies and in the books – but she never had been on its shore. This was an opportunity.
However, Sunanda was caught in two minds. Something strange was happening in her life and she was not able to understand it properly. She was feeling uneasy about it but was unable to pinpoint the cause of her uneasiness.
Sunil had not taken her to ‘their’ home this morning. He talked about ‘some urgent meeting’ in the office which he had to attend to. He introduced his friend Anil to her and asked to follow instructions from Anil.
“When will we meet?” she had asked Sunil and he had just said, “Don’t know”.
Wasn’t it strange?
Anil seemed to be a good person. He took her to a restaurant, fed her well. He convinced Sunanda how life in Mumbai was different than village life and how Sunil was compelled to leave her and all that. She was not convinced. But she had nothing to complain about Anil. He seemed to be a decent fellow.
Sunanda had arrived in Mumbai at about 3.00 in the afternoon. Sunil, her husband came to receive her at Dadar station. They were meeting for the first time after their marriage which took place a couple of months ago, and she had dreamt of a very romantic meeting.
Sunanda after the accidental death of her parents was brought up by her maternal uncle. Well, life was not good there. Sunanda clearly knew that she was unwanted there but had no options but to stay with uncle. She managed to score good marks in her secondary school examinations but the doors of college education were closed to her. If there was a college in her village, she could have still managed it. But going to block headquarter for higher secondary studies and graduation was out of her bounds.
For the last two years, she was just at home, doing nothing and not knowing the purpose of her life. She had nobody to talk to, nobody to communicate. So, when the marriage proposal came, she accepted it gladly, thinking that she would be able to make something of the new opportunity.
Sunanda’s uncle did not find it necessary to ask her consent. He had fixed it in a local Samudayik Vivah Sohala (Community marriage ceremony) organized by a political leader. Sunanda only knew that his name was Sunil and he was working in Mumbai. She also came to know that like her, Sunil too was an orphan. She thought that they will be able to understand each other well because they had gone through the same peril.
And here was her husband; not taking care of her but delegating to his friend!! Sunanda felt very insecure.
Anil had entertained Sunanda well. He seemed to have a knack of making strangers talk. He listened to Sunanda with sensitivity which surprised her. Once in a while, she asked him to call Sunil. However every time Anil politely answered that in the meetings cell-phones were not allowed.
Sunanda did not know what to do. She realized that in this strange city, she did not know anyone except Sunil. She also realized that she did not know anything about Sunil as well. She had his number but no cell-phone to make a call. She had some money with her – but she was sure, she could not go back to her uncle’s house. There was no place for her.
She had only one person to depend on – that was Anil.
The Sun was about to set and the horizon was reddish –orange. The waves sounded beautiful. There were many people playing with the waves. Sunanda forgot all her worries and was excited like a child. She wanted to run into the waves, but was frightened to do so. What if she gets drowned?
“Do you want to go inside? Don’t worry, I am with you. Just hold my hand,” Anil promised her.
For a moment, Sunanda was aghast at his suggestion. How can she, a married woman, hold hand of her husband’s friend? She politely refused and went on.
But just before entering into the water, she stopped.
She saw a monster ahead of her. She turned back and she realized that there was another monster there.
She realized that she was caught in a trap.
She turned back to Anil.
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked.
“Sure”, Anil was as polite as ever.
“Is my husband ever going to come to me again?” she asked with some hope that she would be proved wrong.
“You are very intelligent.” Certified Anil.
Sunanda stepped back. She looked around. There were many people on the sea-shore. Some were walking, some were running, some were playing with their kids, some were building sand castles.
If she shouted, would any of them come to help her? Would anybody believe her? Would she be able to speak their language? If she calls people, what would Anil say? Would people believe her or Anil? He had been good to her so far, but what would he do if she called people or police? Sunanda wanted to cry loudly but only silent tears rolled on her face.
“Come on. Don’t worry. I will take you to my home.” Anil assured her.
“Your home? Who else is there?” Sunanda asked again. She must doubt this man, his intentions. He knew Sunil won’t come again, still he never indicated anything to her until she asked. And why was he ready to take burden of an unknown woman? Sunanda was getting confused.
“Oh! My mother is there. My sisters are there. You will enjoy their company. They will teach you how to earn money in this strange city. You will get enough food and good room to stay. You will have to work for few hours only. You will become a rich person. I promise you, you will never remember Sunil. Anyway, Sunil does not deserve you. He could not bring this luxury to you that I promise. Come with me. Let us go.” Anil’s voice was very assuring and peaceful.
Sunanda looked at those shadows on the sea-shore once again.
She knew she had left one dark corner to have more darkness in life. The past was dark and so would be the future.
Sunanda had to give up to the darkness where there will never be any other shadow.
The reddish –orange horizon and the setting Sun are not as joyous to her as they are to others.
In her life, she is never going to see the rising Sun, never to enter the sea waters, never to have blue sky, never to have the fresh breeze and orange shadows.
She would be drowned in life itself. Now onwards, she would be the shadow of herself.