It was a bright morning. Harini was busy in the kitchen, her ears listening to the song Vijay was humming, as he was bathing. They lived in a duplex house. Vijay chose to have the upper portion and Harini mostly dwelt in the lower.
When Vijay was around her eyes would be the only sense that worked, when Vijay was around but not in front, ears would be the only one working. When he was away, it was just her mind and his thoughts in her mind that worked.
She was cooking for him, even after his repetitive instruction, not to.
She loved cooking for him; she loved doing things for him. She loved him, more than she loved herself. She loved him like no one has ever loved before.
As the singing slowly faded away and the door knob clicked, she saw him coming out and striding away to his room.
She could not resist him. His tall six feet, slim frame, his fair skin which almost shone in the morning sun, everything in him was so irresistible, except the fact that, he was not showing any love towards her.
Harini meticulously plated breakfast for him. As he came down, formally dressed, she extended the plate to him.
Vijay sighed. He looked at the plate and then at the floor. Without raising his head, he uttered, ”I don’t want you to cook for me. I will take care of my needs” and strode away towards the door.
It was the usual scene. Harini often made only one serving of a meal. Vijay would not eat it most of the time and she would manage with it. She got used to his silence and distance. She never complained. She was not sure how to tell it to someone. Parents, according to her were her last choice. She did not want to trouble them. She wanted of tell it to Arvind, her brother. She thought let it wait for some time. Things will get changed, she thought. As she saw him walking away, she stopped him.
“Just a sec”, Harini spoke. She had so much love and numerous questions in her big innocent brown eyes.
Vijay stopped moving. He did not look back.
“Few of my gold ornaments are missing”
“Where did you keep them?”
“At home. In my wardrobe”
“Search for one more time”
“No I did, several times. Those were my favorite ones.” Harini’s tone saddened.
“Ok. Let us see what could be done”, said Vijay and moved out.
It was probably the longest conversation they had spoken in the past few weeks.
As Harini peeped to see him leave, Kamini, her neighbor, smiled at her.
“Come in, Aunty, Had breakfast?”
“Yes dear. I did. Thank you. By the way wanted to ask you the house key” ,Kamini extended her hands.
“Sure Aunty, Just a minute” Harini rushed in.
Kamini owned the house, which was exactly opposite to Harini’s. They were about to sell it. A doctor family had planned to buy it. The keys were with Harini , as she stayed home most of the time.
Harini gave away the keys. Kamini thanked and left.
As Kamini Aunty departed, Harini locked the house. It was empty again. She looked at the breakfast plate on the dining table. She covered it with another. She thought of having it later.
She walked swiftly towards her cupboard, drew out her reception Album. Probably it was the last time Vijay had smiled at her.
She ran her fingers through the picture of her Vijay smiling.
It has been one and a half years, she had felt his warmth. Harini and Vijay never go out together. Vijay did not let Harini to stay close to him even when he was sick. He was an independent person. But something had made him rigid. That something took him away from her. Above all, that something had made him hate her.
She felt a harsh pain in her head. Harini thought something in her made him hate her. She was puzzled as what it was. It was the worst feeling. She never knew what her mistake was, yet she was being punished. Tears rolled down her cheeks, as she recollected the phone call which Vijay made just before their wedding.
“Hello”, Harini smiled as she attended his call.
“My love heaven is just a day away. By this time, tomorrow, you would be my wife. It’s just you who can bring so much happiness and beauty to my life”, Vijay started.
“Enough , my dearest, have something in store after the wedding too.”
“You will not run out of Love and I will not run out of words, describing your love for me.”
“Oh my god. Hey listen, don’t make me blush.”
“Missing those cheeks and the blush”, Vijay sighed.
“Hey Sweets, listen, I am starting from home to wedding hall. See you in the evening. We would have been paired for the family ritual then”, Harini smiled as she cut the call.
Her eyes and cheeks were wet as she ran through that beautiful conversation in her mind. It was the final lovely conversation she had had with Vijay. After the reception he bade a bye and smiled at her before he walked to his room. That was the last time she saw him smiling at her.
Her head throbbed. She rested her head against the cushion. She cried until she dozed off.
Hashna was curling her hair strands that fell on her face with her left hand fingers. She mumbled a hindi song as she applied her mascara. She loved to keep herself gorgeous and beautiful. She looked at the mirror again. She looked perfect.
“Some idiots like Harini never know to beautify them and hence her husband hates her”, Hashna thought.
Hashna was born in Delhi. She was charismatic. People would like her for her beauty. She carried herself so well. She loved herself very much.
She had a strong hatred for Harini. Hashna lived in the same apartment as Harini. Though Harini had never shared her feelings to her, Hashna clearly made out that Harini was being loathed by her husband. She disliked her too.
“Stupid, dumb female”, she thought.
It was not a single day Hashna missed to notice Vijay. She loved his manliness. His hard and stiff muscles, sharp facial features, everything in him made her go crazy.
She once overheard Vijay talking to his friend about how bad her wife dresses and how less she cares for herself. “Someone who cannot care for themselves, can never care for others”, Vijay blurted out.
Hashna decided to groom herself, right that day. She thought she is the form of a woman , whom Vijay loves. She took special care to mold herself mentally and physically into a form which would be loved by Vijay. She wanted him to love everything in her compared to how he hates everything in Harini.
If everything Vijay loves took one form, I should be her, Hashna thought. She slowly started changing her completely.
“Too bad , he ignores me”, she thought. Vijay never paid attention to her, even on those days, when she was in her best attire and the most beautiful make up.
“You look like a Greek god. Men with such godliness are often matched to stupid woman.”, Hashna tried to woo Vijay. He just stared and walked away. Every day she dressed and waited for him, to leave his stupid wife back and come to her.
It was a bright day for her today. She had great plans ahead. As she completed her breakfast, she went out for shopping.
Harini never knew Hashna had so much love for her Husband.
Harini had stopped concentrating much on her surroundings. She locked herself into her small world; her small world with her love; her small world which was now full of confusions and miseries. Hashna took full advantage of this.
When Harini woke up, it was already half past two. She never knew how time flew. She had slept for so long. She pulled her hair into a French bun. Her stomach growled. She rushed to the dining table to grab the plate for eating. It was already soiled and left for washing.
She was stunned. She remembered covering it and leaving it on the dining table. Did I really get up and eat it, she thought. In panic she rushed to the main door. To add to her chaos, it was not latched.
No burglar would steal her breakfast she thought. Has someone been breaking into the house? Harini’s mind raced. Was he the reason behind the gold ornament stealth? She thought.
But how could someone break into a house in bright daylight. She thought of speaking to Vijay first and then the Apartment security. She looked herself in the mirror. She had carelessly rested her face somewhere while she was asleep. There were few black markings. Harini was busy rubbing them off her face.
It was 7.30 PM. Vijay usually, never had dinner at home. Harini was very tired that day. She toasted few slices of bread and was stuffing it into her mouth. The doorbell rang. She hesitantly opened the door. To her surprise Vijay was standing there.
Her lips curled up spontaneously at his mere sight.
He did not wait to see her smile. He walked into the house.
She wanted to tell him about the burglary confusion. He walked straight to the kitchen and made coffee for him.
“Had lunch ?”, Harini started.
“Yes”, he replied looking at his mobile.
“I want to talk to you ”
“Guess you are already talking to me”, Vijay was still looking into his mobile.
“Not like this. It is something serious”
Vijay let out a sigh and placed his mobile down. He looked at her, crossed his hands across his chest. He gestured as though he was ready to listen.
“For the past few days, I feel like someone is breaking into our house. I feel I am being followed. I feel someone is moving around while I am still here.”
“Stop imagining. It will be alright”
“No. I am kind of sure and kind of confused too. Today I remember placing the breakfast plate on the dining table. When I saw it after few hours, It was soiled and was kept for washing”
“Someone is following you, to break into the house for your breakfast? “
“Vijay, Please. I am very serious. The ornament stealth also happened the same way.”
“See, you are imagining. You are assuming. That’s the problem.”
“Vijay, why don’t you understand?” , Harini had tears. “I am discussing about something that is happening. Please don’t accuse me. It is hurting me. “
“Accuse me, Hurt me, and understand me. It is always me me me and only me, right?” Vijay raised his voice.
Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Vijay continued, “As if everything around is so pleasing for me. Don’t pull words from my mouth. Stop imagining, finish your dinner, If you have not and go to bed.” , he ordered and strode towards the stairs.
Hashna was able to hear every single word of the conversation. She was happy that Harini was being abused. “Lame dog”, she thought.
“If it had been me, I would not cry like a weak animal. This female cannot fight tears, poor little thing. Keep crying, keep weeping. Don’t stand for yourself firm on your point, he is never going to love you. My Vijay is going to be mine, very soon” , She thought.
Harini stood there helpless. She wept uncontrollably. He was mean to her. She was angry on him. She was angry on herself for making him behave this way. She sat on the couch , covered her face and cried. She never knew when she fell asleep.
Vijay woke up as he heard some noise; noise of a chair being pulled. He was irritated, as he woke up from deep sleep. He was not sure from where it came. He thought it might not happen again and covered his head. He now heard the sound of door knob click. He was now startled.
He immediately rushed down. It was all quiet and normal. Harini was sleeping on the couch.
He felt relieved and as he was about to go back to his room, he saw a shadow running out from his house and to his bewilderment, the main door in his house was unlocked. The door wobbled as though someone had just pulled it hard. He went close to the door and peeped outside. The apartment veranda lights were on. The path looked normal. It did not show any sudden movements as his house door did.
Vijay let out a sigh. As he was about to return to his home, he saw a dark figure standing inside the locked house that was owned by Kamini. Vijay froze in shock. He never believed in ghosts or spirits. He was not sure what it was. His body was completely covered with sweat beads. He looked back. Harini was still sleeping calmly.
Chapter – 3
“Love unconditionally, so that nothing can hurt you. Even what you love”.
Vijay read Harini’s status. He sat cross legged on his bed, thinking about the events of last night. It terrified him. He got ready for office and came down.
The couch was empty. Kitchen and living room too. He searched where she was. He was not sure when was the last time he searched for her.
He peeped into her bedroom. He found her fast asleep. She had never slept so long. It was strange for him. He decided to wake her up.
As he went near, he heard her mumble. “Vijay, I love you. I am not sure what you hate in me. I will not repeat it. I want you to love me. Say I love you. But just say I love you. I will die for it. I love you, Vijay”
Vijay was taken aback. He had not showed any love or mercy for her right from the day of marriage. She had shown him only love. There were days, when he had shown his worst face to her. She never complained. She felt hurt, but she did not hate him for that.
He slowly tried to pull her quilt away. She slowly woke up. She was startled to see him on her bed.
She jumped off her bed. “I am sorry. Not sure how I ended up sleeping on your bed. Sorry. Should have been by mistake”, she was panting.
“Hey, no. I just came to your room”, Vijay spoke.
There had been so many mornings; Harini had wished to wake up in Vijay’s arms. Today was a different experience. He had come to her room.
“Just a minute.” She ran to the wash basin. She refreshed her up. Had yesterday’s conversation made him check on me, Harini wondered. She was happy that he had searched for her.
Vijay had an urge to ask her about the noises he heard last night. He made up his mind not to tell about the silhouette he saw inside Kamini Aunty’s house.
As Harini pat dried her face, Vijay spoke in a low tone.
“When did you come here. You were sleeping in couch right?”
“Hmm. Yes. Not sure when. I just woke in middle of the night. My head and body ached badly. I thought it might be due to the couch. So came to bed.”
“Ok. Don’t forget to lock the main door. I am moving to office”, Vijay spoke and by all good instincts , he turned to look into her eyes; the same big, round, deep brown eyes. They showed so much love and sorrow at the same time. He had deeper sorrows, he thought.
The casual talk seemed like great words for her. She was in cloud nine to think that he had taken time to speak to her and asking her to be careful. It felt wonderful.
“Can you wait for a moment? I shall make breakfast, long since I had prepared for you”, she rushed to kitchen.
“No thanks. You are staying with me. I should take care of your safety. Hence I asked you to do so. No room for advantage”, Vijay blurted out and slammed the door behind him.
Harini stood there, feeling hopeless.
Not again, she thought. His words hit her harsh. She felt her head spin.
She held her head and landed on the sofa. Tears rolled down.
Hashna was startled by the sound of the door slamming. She thought Vijay should have got irritated by Harini. She was so happy.
It’s nice to see this lame dog getting abused, she thought.
Hashna was distracted by the voices outside. The doctor family who had bought the house was there.
The doctor, his mother, Sharadha and Kamini and her husband Raj were there.
Hashna tried to eavesdrop.
Kamini Aunty asked keys from Harini. Harini still felt her head spin. She did not bother to look at her new neighbors.
Harini almost felt like fainting. The doctor and his mother were discussing about moving in, the next month. Hashna did not like it.
Doctor’s mother told that they will visit again in the evening. Kamini Aunty took a leave, asking them to lock the house, once they completed the visit and hand over the keys to Harini.
The doctor and Raj started their financial settlement discussions.
Hashna thought it was the right time.
She approached Sharadha.
“Aunty, just a small note as a well-wisher, Can you please come? Have to tell you something. “
“What is it? By the way, May I know who you are?”
“I am a resident of this apartment. The house you are about to buy is haunted. There is something wrong about this house. I have seen and heard so many fishy things in the night time. I felt like telling this to you. If you have not proceeded with the payment, please stop it. I am just telling this on a friendly note, Aunty. Take care. ”, Hashna finished the conversation hurriedly, as she saw the doctor approaching.
“What is it Mom?” , the doctor asked.
Sharadha looked puzzled. Hashna was happy she had confused her.
The doctor looked at Hashna, she moved away swiftly, so that he could not register her face in his mind.
The doctor did not feel good about her. He thought something was strange and wrong with her.
“Nothing, can we leave?”, Sharadha vacated the place quickly.
It was in the evening, Vijay was returning tired and hungry.
He could hear a lot of noise in his floor. As he approached his flat, he could hear Harini’s voice.
“Aunty, I am telling you the truth. I do not know them by person at all.” Harini spoke in broken voice.
“Oh, so you can ruin a good deal, is it?”, Kamini snubbed back.
“Aunty please. Believe me. I did not speak anything about it at all. Even when you asked for keys, I just handed them over to you and came in. I did not even look at them. This is the first time I am seeing them. Why would I do something bad to you, Aunty? Please believe me. ”, Harini pleaded this time.
As Vijay approached, he could see that his wife and Kamini Aunty were arguing. The doctor was over phone, while his mom was beside Kamini Aunty.
“Listen, if you are going to continue this, I am going to talk to the apartment secretary and get you vacated.”, Kamini threatened.
“Madam, you can settle it later with this girl. Now please bring the documents back”, Sharadha demanded.
“Harini, what the hell is going on here?”
“Vijay, Kamini Aunty is telling that I met Sharadha aunty and told her that the opposite house is haunted. “, Harini almost broke into tears. She felt helpless.
As Harini spoke, the doctor was fast approaching.
“Why can’t you mind your own business?”, Vijay almost snarled.
Harini was taken aback. She was in tears.
“Stop crying”, Vijay ordered.
“Listen. It is because of your wife, she is now backing out”, Kamini spoke in rage.
“I am sorry about it , but.”, Vijay tried to say something when he was interrupted by Doctor.
“Hey, You look familiar. You did your UG in GEC, Chennai, right?”, the doctor slowed down as he recognized Vijay completely. His face suddenly saddened.
Vijay was startled. He did not expect this question. He tried to forget his college life. He was not sure why the doctor was reminding him about it.
“Yes, but I could not recognize you, I am Sorry”, Vijay replied.
“I am Shyam. I was doing medicine in your institution only. We used to travel in the same bus”, Shyam cleared.
Vijay’s college had both engineering and medical college inside the same campus.
“Nice to meet you”, Vijay extended his hand.
Kamini and Sharadha who were puzzled by the sudden introduction , were hasty enough to settle the confusion which was going on.
Shyam noticed Harini. He was shocked to see her. He could not believe his eyes. He froze for a moment. Her eyes were so innocent. He was sure she was telling the truth.
“Mom, please stop. I am pretty sure there are no such thing as ghost or spirits. If you feel like we can have an additional pooja once we move in. This place is much closer to my clinic. So it is final. We are moving in here”, he put forth a strong point.
“Son, but this is a big investment, we have to be careful”, Sharadha warned.
“Sure Mom. We will be fine. Don’t worry. I feel whatever you have been told is a lie. There is nothing wrong with this house.”
Sharadha stared at Harini. Harini was still throwing a bewildered look. Kamini Aunty was happy that the deal was not broken.
As all of them dispersed, Vijay and Harini entered their home.
“What did I do to you, Vijay?”, Harini asked. He gave a puzzled look.
“What sin did I commit? Am I not even worthy for your support in front of strangers? Why you were so harsh on me in front of everybody”, Harini asked miserably.
Hashna who had been a silent listener throughout the scene, spoke to herself for the first time.
“That’s because he hates you. That’s because I cleverly planned to get you into all this. Stay tuned for more”, she rolled her eyes.
Vijay did not answer. His thoughts were stuck to his college. The doctor had reminded him. He placed his laptop bag on the sofa and went to his room.
Few miles away, Shyam made sure his mom slept. He turned on the television, lazily switching between the channels.
He could not forget Vidyuth. He could still remember how bad things turned. Did Vijay know about it already?, he was not sure. Shyam was reluctant to talk about it to Vijay. He touched his wallet. The memory card was safe in there.
Vidyuth, Vijay, Suresh, Aravind, Bharath. Shyam’s brain, mentally played all their faces in sequence. He shut his eyes tight and calmed his mind down.
Not all are lucky enough to love and to be loved.
If you don’t find love in the other heart, don’t demand it.
If love does not bloom in your loved one’s heart, don’t worry. Be happy, it at least grew in yours!!
Harini wrote these words and ran her fingers through it. Nothing can be as painful as love.
Once , when she could not handle it by herself, she broke into tears to her friend.
“Leave him. Your value will not be known, If you are always behind”, her friend told.
“No Anita, I want to stay with him. I want to be by his side.”
“Stop this non-sense. Be practical. You have every valid reason to leave. What happened to your dream of becoming a certified interior designer. Remember how hard you studied for it?”
“Yes, I remember. But that is secondary now. I have bigger and better aim now. I want to get my love back. And yes, I have every reason to leave him behind and walk away, but on top of all, I have one strong reason to stay. That is love”
“What did the love give you? Just tears, sleepless nights and misery. Remember you killed your dream for him. You told me that he needed you the most and discontinued your certification half way.”
“Yes. True. Until now he is my top priority. The pain is just until I see his face the next morning, once I see him, all the miseries in me vanish.”
“Is it the same the other side?, No, right?”
“Love is not a good to be exchanged. It cannot be bound to any condition. Love is unconditional. Loving someone when you get it back is ordinary; if you are able to love, even if you don’t get any, makes it pure.”
“You are obsessed with love. Anyways, take care”
The conversation ended.
Almost all of her friends were jealous of the relationship Harini and Vijay shared. Harini never believed in boon or curse. She was a spiritual person, but not conventional or religious. But with the current phase of her life, not knowing what went wrong and how, she had to believe that it should have been the deadliest curse on her.
“Shwetha is coming here today”, Vijay’s voice startled her.
Harini turned towards Vijay. She was surprised that he was up so early.
“She will stay her for a couple of days. My bro in law has got some work in Chennai branch. Hence they are here”, Vijay continued.
Shwetha was Vijay’s elder sister. She was settled in Delhi. Her husband’s office had a head office for South India in Chennai. They visited at least twice a year. Nevertheless to say, Shwetha chose her Brother’s place for stay.
Whenever, Shwetha visited them, the couple made sure not to display their obvious rift. Vijay would ask Shwetha and her family to use his room, while he came down.
Shwetha, in one her previous visits, sensed something was wrong.
“What is the problem with you? I sense something wrong”, Shwetha inquired Harini.
Harini did not like her presumption. She was worried, as what she might ask her now.
Shwetha’s family had arrived around 11 AM. Vijay had received them from airport, dropped them at home and left for work.
Harini welcomed them warmly. As they were having lunch, Shwetha kept scrutinizing Harini.
“How does the food taste?”, Harini asked, in an attempt to distract her and escape her scrutiny.
Shwetha was in no mood to leave. “So, when are you going to tell us the good news?’”, she started.
Harini kept her voice low and mind calm.
“Sure. At the right time”, Harini managed to smile.
Shwetha could sense an urge in Harini’s tone to end the topic.
“By the way, the lunch was good”, Shwetha smiled.
Hashna could sense the new members in Vijay’s house. She could also identify it was Shwetha.
Hashna disliked Shwetha , though they did not have any direct relationship. Harini and Vijay spent more time together whenever Shwetha was there. The mere thought troubled Hashna.
She devised a cunning plan. She was waiting for the right time to execute it.
Vijay was back, late in the night. Shwetha’s daughter had slept. Shwetha and her husband were waiting for Vijay to come. Once he was in, they wished him a good night and called it a day.
As he sat on the sofa, his mobile rang. He decreased the T.V volume, as he was reluctant to get up and attend the call.
“Hello”, he answered.
“Yes, I have the signed paper with me. I will scan it tomorrow and mail you.”
“Yes Sir, I understand that it is a crucial paper. I will send it to you, without fail. I will make sure the signed paper reaches you before the US Market opens.”
“Thank you. Have a great day”, he ended his call, which was from his manager who was working from New Jersey.
Hashna was closely listening to the conversation.
Harini, tired after a long day, lay on the couch. Before even she could think about anything, she dozed off.Vijay was fast asleep in the bedroom.
In the middle of the night, Shwetha’s daughter started becoming cranky and demanded for some milk. As Shwetha, walked down to the kitchen, she saw someone digging into Vijay’s bag. Shwetha tip-toed. She began to walk with light foot, to get a better picture as who it was. She was shocked. Shwetha grabbed her daughter, held her close to chest. Shwetha was closely watching her activities. She took out a paper, crushed it and threw it in the Trash bin. She looked around. Shwetha hid herself. Shwetha’s daughter gave out a loud cry. Shwetha tried to calm her daughter, in fear of being noticed. She swiftly moved back to her room. Hashna turned her head towards the direction from where the sound was coming. She hastily moved away.
Shwetha could not sleep easily after what had happened. She was not sure why the girl had been doing it to Vijay. She was not able to wake up early the next morning. It was almost 8 when she came down.
“Good morning”, her brother greeted her with a smile.
She smiled back. She was not sure whether to tell him or not, about the incident.
Vijay was busy searching something inside his bag. Shwetha signaled him, asking where Harini was.
“Looks like she had disturbed sleep. She is having severe headache. She is in the kitchen”
“Oh, ok. What are you searching for?”
“I bought a signed copy of a project agreement document from office last night. I have got to scan it and send it to my manager. Searching for the same.”
Shwetha directly went to the trash. She saw a crumbled paper there. She took it out and handed it over to Vijay. Vijay was wondering as what Shwetha was doing.
When Vijay unfolded the wrinkles, he was shocked to see that it was the signed document which he was searching.
“Shwetha, how did you know it was there? By the way how did it first of all go to trash?”, Vijay was little annoyed.
“Harini threw it in the trash.”, Shwetha replied calmly.
“What the heck is wrong with her? Harini … ”, Vijay screamed.
“Yes”, Harini came out of the kitchen, holding her head.
“What is this?”, Vijay furiously showed the crumbled paper in front of her.
“I don’t know, Vijay”.
“Vijay, she is lying. I saw her searching it in your bag for something. She clearly took out the paper, crumbled it and dropped it in the trash. I saw it.”, Shwetha narrated.
“What do you have to say for this?”, Vijay demanded.
“No. I don’t know anything about this.”, Harini cried helplessly.
Hashna was feeling great. Her plan worked out well. The innocent Harini was now being confronted and interrogated.
“That weak piece of pain will now cry. It will irritate my Vijay. He is going to blast her”, Hashna thought. She also felt a little sad for Harini, for being accused for her mistakes. It made no sense. But Hashna was happy. She did not like anybody around her, except her Vijay.
“Don’t try to fool me”, Vijay snarled.
Harini was in tears. ”Why are you embarrassing me in front of everybody?”, Harini asked.
“Do you really know what this paper means to me? It is a 2 million dollar business I have signed for my company. You spoilt my life, you spoilt my happiness, now you are trying to ruin my career, aren’t you?”, Vijay’s fury was at its peak.
“Your life is mine, your happiness is mine, and your career growth is mine. You are my life, you are my love. Why would I ever ruin your life?”, Harini was in tears.
Shwetha felt bad for Harini. She was so miserable to look at.
“Anyways , Vijay. The paper is now with you, right? Leave it.”, Shwetha spoke, in an attempt to stop Vijay.
‘Stupid Shwetha. What bothers you? Let him scold her a little more.’ Hashna gritted her teeth.
Vijay was silent for few moments. He stared at Harini and moved on to get ready.
Shwetha approached Harini. She held her close.
“Harini, why did you do like this”
“No Shwetha,I did not. This is not the first time. Such incidents are happening. I am being accused for things that I am never committing “, Harini wept.
‘Yes, you will be accused for all that I do. The more innocent and ignorant you are, the easier for me.’ Hashna thought.
“Ok Harini. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine soon.”, Shwetha assured. “I am moving up and will pack the things up. I have a flight at 12.30. I will inform Vijay. We will leave ourselves”, Shwetha continued.
Harini felt lost. Her life was not taking her anywhere. She covered her face. She did not want to cry. She wanted to send off Shwetha first.
It was 11 AM when Shwetha and family had brunch and left for airport.
Vijay was returning from office as the series of incidents at home had been continuously disturbing him. He had no mood to concentrate on his work. He was waiting in a signal for a long time, awaiting the light to turn green. He was just few minutes away from home.
He was just staring at random things on the road, thoughts struck somewhere. Something in front of him suddenly caught his eyes. He blinked few times before he could get a clear picture.
He saw Harini walking into a shop which was for mortgaging gold jewelry. He was shocked. He was confused. Before he could understand what was happening, he was startled by the series of loud honks. The signal was now green. He immediately started his car, moved few meters, stopped the car and slowly watched the shop. There was no sign of Harini. After a few minutes, she walked away, stuffing her wallet into her bag. Vijay rushed into the shop.
The shop was small. There were few other customers, who were attended by the people working there. Owner was seated in the cash counter, scrutinizing some bills with his half glasses.
“Excuse me , Sir. I am Vijay”, Vijay offered a hand.
The shop owner looked at him in a weird way. Probably the hand shake was too much for him, Vijay thought.
“Yes, what can I do for you?”, asked the shop keeper.
“A lady, who just walked out of your shop, I need to know why she was here”, Vijay struggled to gather words.
“Sorry, I cannot reveal about my customers”, the shop owner folded his hands.
“She is my wife”, Vijay showed his mobile. ”We had to mortgage her jewelry for a personal need for money. I am now financially better. I just want to gift her back the jewelry we mortgaged here”, Vijay lied.
“No, I cannot give my customers jewels to any other personnel”, the shop keeper was strict.
Vijay now made it clear that Harini had been here to mortgage her jewelry. He remembered her telling that her most favorite one was missing. He made a wild guess. He described a jewelry, which Vijay once gifted to her.
“Sir, please listen. We had to mortgage a jewelry, few days back. It is a thin knotted chain with a small sunflower pendant. The pendant has amethyst stones inscribed in it. There would be few beads hanging”, Vijay completed his description.
The shop keeper was stunned by the Accuracy; he was not sure even if the girl who mortgaged would remember.
He went in and came out with a box. He took out the chain from it, handed it over to Vijay.Vijay studied it for a moment. It was his gift. It was the exact thing he was talking about. He peeped into the box. There were lot more jewelries, most of them was gifted by him.
“Excuse me, Mr. I showed you just because you were able to tell about it perfectly.”, the shop keeper broke his chain of thoughts. “What do you want to know now?”, he demanded.
“I am taking this. Please tell me how much to pay”, asked Vijay. The shop keeper gave him the details.
He took the jewelry along with him. He was back in his car to home. He was confused. Had she been mortgaging for a long time? If yes, what was the reason? Though he had not been in a good relationship with her, he had always been transferring a decent sum to her Account for her usage. He did not want her to ask him for her personal needs. ’ Then why should she do it? Strange’, Vijay thought.
He tried to knock the door. He saw that the door was not locked. He slowly stepped in. The clothes she had worn to the shop were thrown on the couch. He slowly moved.
“Vijay, you are home? ”, Harini exclaimed. Her eyes showed so much happiness. His presence gave her immense pleasure.
After every fight or argument, Harini never brooded on it. Once she saw Vijay , all her fear, confusion and agony vanished. She spoke to him as if nothing had happened in the morning.
“The door was not locked?”, Vijay asked.
“Oops. Sorry. Shwetha left around 11. I had severe headache. I slept for a while. Just woke up and unlocked the door as the laundry guy came.”
“So you were just sleeping, you did not go out anywhere?”
“No. No. I was here the whole time”.
Vijay lost his patience. She was lying. It was coming so natural.
He took out the jewelry and placed it on the table. She was happy to see it. But she looked puzzled. Vijay expected a shock from her. She was puzzled instead. “This was the missing one that I told you about. How did you get it?”, she inquired in excitement of getting her chain back.
“From the shop where you had mortgaged it”, Vijay replied.
“What? I mortgaged? Why should I? What is the need Vijay? I have enough money for my personal expense. Plus you know, this my favorite one. Why would I ever do it?” Harini was confused.
“Just because you asked the same questions that had been running in my mind, it is not that you are innocent. Tell me. Answer me now”, Vijay demanded.
“I don’t know Vijay. Even this appears to me like few of the previous incidents. Someone is trying to fool me. I am being accused for things I have never been doing”, Harini’s tone saddened.
“Ignore the past two incidents. But this one, you cannot deny. I saw you with my own eyes.”, Vijay shouted.
“Vijay what are you trying to tell”, Harini’s voice broke.
“Don’t try to cheat me”
“Why should I cheat you? Don’t you know me?”
“I do not want to talk about the past. Nothing hurts me more than my past.”
“But my current life itself is hurting me more”
“That’s because of you. It’s your problem”.
“Don’t be so rude. It hurts”.
“I am being extremely kind and polite to you. You ruined my life”, Vijay was shouting on top of his lungs.
Harini broke into terrible tears.
“You are the one who ruined my life. You are punishing me without even letting me know my mistake. I don’t deserve this from you”, Harini spoke in between her tears.
Driven by anger and heat of the moment, Vijay gave a tight slap on Harini’s cheek.
“You are the one who ruined my life. You killed all my emotions and love I had for you. You are trying to fool me by acting innocent. Go to hell”, he shouted, slammed the door behind him walked out.
Harini stood there with a hand on her face, in utter shock.
Vijay started walking towards the lawn. He never knew where to go. He felt he was lost. He was staring at the bright sky. A tennis ball hit his legs, which brought him to the present. What has he been thinking about? How long had it been? He was not sure.
“Anna, ball”, the small boy called out. Vijay threw the ball at him. Harini’s thoughts struck him. He was not sure what she would be doing. He did not even wait for her to react. He strode away. He was suddenly panicked. He wanted to go back and check on her.
He walked fast. As he reached his home, he found the door was not latched again.
“Harini”, he called out as he entered. There was no response.
As he walked into bedroom, study room to find her, he heard few mumbles from the kitchen. He was shocked. His mind built up so many assumptions. He shook everything and walked towards the place from where the sound was coming.
His body turned cold and he almost froze as he saw Harini lying down in a small pool of blood dripping from her left wrist. She had cut herself deep. Vijay held his fist tight. He was not sure what to do. His mind did not work. He was panicked as whom he would call for help. His mind raced. Doctor, yes, he thought. He immediately ran to his opposite house. To his luck, the doctor had come again to check on some finishing.
“Doctor, doctor”, Vijay called him.
Shyam sensed the panic in his voice. He patted him to calm him down.
“What happened”, Shyam asked Vijay.
“My wife, my wife, she cut herself”, Vijay was still under shock.
Shyam and Vijay rushed in.
Shyam immediately lifted her and checked her pulse. He let out a sigh of relief.
“Her pulse rate is good. This means she need not be hospitalized. But she needs first aid.” He pulled out a box and started applying something on her wrist.
Vijay was still under shock. Is Harini safe? Will he be penalized under law for her suicide attempt? There were million things running in his mind.
The doctor sensed something strange in her, as he completed his first aid.
The oozing of blood now reduced. As he gave her an antiseptic injection, he spoke to Vijay.
“Can we take her to a room and make her rest on a comfortable place?”, Shyam asked Vijay.
“Sure “, Vijay pointed to her bedroom.
Vijay carried her to her bed. He laid her straight. He got a closer look at her face for a moment. Her breathe felt warm against his arms. He had never seen her or felt her so close since their wedding.
“Vijay, I need to check your wife. Trust me and stay out for few minutes”, Shyam ordered. Vijay hesitated for a moment and then made his move.
Vijay waited impatiently for more than half an hour. It was then, Shyam came out. He peeped through the door to check on Harini. She was sleeping peacefully.
“Doctor, is there any problem?”
“Vijay, the wound in her hand would get cured in another couple of days. I have now given her an injection to sleep. But …” , Shyam was not sure how he would tell it.
“Yes doc..”, Vijay was interrupted by Shyam. “Call me Shyam”, he said.
“Ok Shyam. Tell me”, Vijay felt comfortable addressing him by name.
“Your wife…”, Shyam fumbled. ”Your wife was attacked by Hashna. Hashna forced her to die. Hashna cut her hand. Not just this. The previous incident, in which my mom was told about the mystery in the house, it was Hashna. She had been a silent listener of all the conversation and incidents happening in your house “, Shyam tried to put the words together.
“Hashna? Who is she? Why is she trying to kill Harini? She is nowhere here. How can she talk to your mom? I am going to file a complaint against her for creating the chaos.” Vijay spoke in haste.
“You can’t do that. You can’t file a complaint against Hashna. Your wife will get caught”, warned Shyam.
“What?” , Vijay was completely lost.
Vijay tried to speak something. Shyam took out his card and handed over to Vijay. Though he was addressed doctor in general, he was a psychiatrist.
“Your wife is suffering from a Mental trauma.”, Shyam explained.
“What?”, Vijay asked in confusion.
“I can explain you everything. But before that I demand an explanation. Why did your life change upside down after your wedding?”, Shyam put forth the most sensitive question. “You might think why you should share your personal details to a stranger like me. Trust me. We have to cure Harini’s mental trauma. We have to stop Hashna from hurting Harini further. Being a psychiatrist, I can help you with all of this.” Shyam spoke.
Vijay sensed truth in his words.
“I promise I will tell you everything. But what is the Trauma she is undergoing. Why can’t I complain about Hashna?”
“You cannot file a complaint against Hashna or harm her because it will harm your wife only…”Shyam pasued. “…because Harini and Hashna are the same person. Your wife is suffering from dissociative identity disorder; in common terms, split personality disorder”.
Vijay was shocked. His confused and terrified mind drifted eight years back.
Chapter – 8
“Howzat!”, Arvind shouted as the ball kissed Suresh’s leg pads. It was an important wicket for Arvind’s team.
Umpire slowly raised his hand signaling the Loss of Wicket for the mechanical team. They were 9 down for 78 runs. ECE Team had put up a mammoth target of 165 on the board in ten overs. The mechanical supporters hung their head as their opening batsman Suresh, who was their captain and Star performer walked back to the pavilion.
Suresh , through the corner of his eyes saw Vijay, his best friend from childhood, running towards Arvind and hugging him , celebrating his dismissal.
“Hey, that’s ok da”, one of his team mates consoled, as Suresh removed his gloves.
“Hey, I am not feeling bad about getting dismissed. It’s a part of the game. Getting Dismissed in Arvind’s spell was the last thing I expected. “, growled Suresh.
Suresh and Vijay had been the thickest friends since childhood. Suresh’s father was a chief mechanic in Vijay’s dad’s company. He died while operating a huge machine. Vijay’s dad felt very bad for the loss. He assured to Suresh’s mom that he will aid their living and completely take care of Suresh’s studies. He made sure his wife and son treated Suresh and his Mom well. Vijay’s mom always took special care for Suresh. Vijay and Suresh studied, played and slept together. They turned out to be best friends. As Suresh grew, more than the friendship, he was drawn towards the benefits of befriending Vijay. He took his father’s stream. He chose mechanical, while Vijay chose ECE in merit.
Arvind and Vijay knew each other only for the past one and half year in the college. Suresh was not sure what in Arvind attracted Vijay so much. Vijay became much fond of Arvind. He strongly felt that Vijay’s attention slowly shifted towards Arvind. His friendship for Suresh did not degrade, but Suresh loathed a third person intervention. He strongly registered in his mind that Arvind was the reason why Vijay did not spend much time as it was in the beginning.
Suresh’s chain of thoughts was disturbed by the roar of the crowd. Yes, the tenth wicket had fell. Mechanical had lost the match. Vijay and Arvind celebrated their victory. Once the presentation was over, Vijay handed over the trophy and came running to Suresh.
“Hey, dude, he called out.
“Oh.. you could even see me amidst your celebrations?”, Suresh mocked.
For the past one year Vijay felt strange change in Suresh’s Attitude. He knew the reason. He tried to make it clear to Suresh. He was not ready to understand.
“Come on man. Don’t do this. I was just with my team. “
“Yes. Your team. Your victory. You could have continued. Why are you here.”
“Hey, Sorry da.” Vijay tried to calm him down.
“Vijay…” Bharath, one of his team mate shouted.
“Just a sec. Coming “, Vijay replied.
“Hey, Suresh. I will see you tonight. I will come home. Got to go now da. Bye”
Suresh did not bother to look at his face.
“Bye”, he just replied.
As Bharath and Vijay approached, Vijay saw a cute girl talking to Arvind.
“Hey, Vijay, this is my sister, Harini”. Arvind introduced.”Harini this is Vijay, my dept. In today’s match my captain”, he continued.
She flashed her beautiful smile. “Congratulations. That was a wonderful batting performance. Heard from Aru that you scored 87 smashing so many boundaries and sixes”, she spoke as she adjusted the fringe of her that fell on her face.
She was cute. As Vijay watched her speak, her big round brown eyes showed so many expressions.
She urged Arvind to hold the energy drink which she had bought for her brother.
She removed the clip from her hair, held it tight in between her lips. Her lips were thin and pink. Her lower lip was a little thicker than her upper, making it breathe taking. She adjusted her hair and pinned it back with the clip.
“Vijay….”, Arvind shook him hard now.
“Hey, hey, yes”, Vijay managed.
“I am going home. You coming?” Arvind asked.
Vijay wanted to tell a yes, for he might get some more time to see Harini, but he told Suresh that he would meet him.
“Hey no da. Had a plan of meeting Suresh’s mom. “, Vijay replied.
“Oh. OK. Sure. See you in college on Monday da”. Arvind and Harini bade a bye and left.
Vijay and Aravind stayed very close to each other. They were put up just 5 kilometers apart. They travelled in the same bus to college. That’s how they became great friends.
“Hey!!” Vidyuth , Vijay’s loving brother exclaimed as he saw the trophy in his brother’s hand. Vidyuth was in his twelfth standard. He came running to his brother. As he grabbed the trophy from Vijay, Vijay lifted him and balanced him on his shoulders.
Vijay and Vidyuth were identical brothers. Vijay was tall and strong, while Vidyuth’s built was puny. This made Vijay to lift him everytime he was happy.
His mom, who approached fast, demanded Vijay to be careful with Vidyuth. Vidyuth was now literally several feet above ground.
“So, you cannot congratulate your winning son?”, Vijay demanded.
“Of course, yes. But before that, be careful with him”, she pointed to Vidyuth.
Being the younger son of a rich family, Vidyuth was pampered by all the three. Though he was 17 years old now, they still thought him to be a kid. They took care of him the same way. Vijay, His mom and dad, everyone treated Vidyuth as an Apple of their eyes.
As Vijay slowly placed his feet back on the floor , “Awesome da”, Vidyuth exclaimed.
He handed over the trophy to him for some admiration. They both sat and Vijay started sharing all the important happenings of the game.
It was 9 when Vijay reached Suresh’s home. Suresh was not yet home.
“Hi Aunty”, smiled Vijay.
“Come in Son. Suresh is not yet home.”, she said worriedly.
“We had a match today. We won. Suresh’s team lost. He did not speak to me properly after that. “, Vijay ‘s tone saddened.
“Suresh and I should be extremely grateful for what your family is doing to us. I am really not sure why he is doing this to you. Don’t worry, I will talk to him”, she consoled.
Suresh arrived the next moment. He was happy that Vijay kept up his word. Vijay and Suresh left for a walk and a talk.
Vijay felt contended after spending quality time with him. He headed home with a light heart. It was just a 5 minutes’ drive back home.
Vijay usually played cricket in a club organized by his area residents. Due to insufficient funds, it was shifted to the nearby park. It was the first day on the park. Vijay enthusiastically picked up his kit and started his car. Being a son of an entrepreneur, he was allowed to handle cars once he entered his college.
Vijay reached the park and saw his friends waiting there. He waved them a ‘hi’ and the match began. As he was playing, his eyes shifted to the pavement of the park in which people were walking. He saw someone in ponytails, frequently adjusting the hair that fell on her face , walking swiftly. That gesture was registered strongly in him, he thought hard. “Yes, it is Arvind’s sister, Harini”, he said to himself. As he was excited about seeing her now, he hit the ball with full force, his hands lost the grip due to the force and his bat flew and hit Harini at her Ankles hard. She fell down, wriggling in pain. Vijay ran to her. People surrounded her. She kept telling them that she was ok. As Vijay reached there, he saw her Ankles slightly swelled up. He panicked.
“Harini, come come”, he pushed away few people who were standing there.
“I know her, she is my friend. I will take care”, he assured to disperse the crowd.
“Hey, Vijay. Good morning”, she greeted him even in pain. ”Someone did not like me. See what they have done”, she showed her aching ankles. Vijay helped her to get up. She was not able to walk. He held her hand across his shoulders and gave her grip to hop.
“Not really. I know. They did not hate you”. Vijay assured.
“How come so sure”, Harini winked. “Because it was me, I am so sorry for hurting you”, Vijay replied in a sad tone.
“That’s ok. It happens”, Harini smiled. By the time they spoke, they had reached Vijay ‘s car. He made her sit comfortably and drove the car to nearby hospital.
They waited for few minutes. Doctor diagnosed her ankles and confirmed that it was just sprain. The doctor rolled up her tracks up to her knees and wrapped her ankles with a cloth. Through her corner of her eyes, Harini noticed Vijay who was worriedly watching the doctor treating her. Harini felt a sudden sense of the blood rushing to her face. The rush of blood- only because of that do they call it blush? Harini thought. She carefully tried to pull her tracks down. Vijay sensed Harini’s thoughts and turned his head towards the hospital window, suppressing a smile.
Vijay dropped Harini at her home. Her parents panicked to see her ankles. Vijay explained them in detail and made sure Harini took a day’s off at school that day. He left for his home, to leave for the college.
Vijay made sure he constantly checked on Harini. He texted during the lunch break. He called her once from college.
It was in the night, when Arvind was about to come to Harini’s room, he saw Harini smiling at her mobile. It was a text from Vijay. He had been sending all kinds of feel good and comical texts that day, to keep her mind light and distracted from the pain.
“Hey, I thought you were hurt in ankles. Are you hurt in your temple and gone nuts?”, Arvind pulled her legs.
“What?”, Harini asked in irritated tone.
“What are you smiling at?”, he asked.
“Nothing. My friend, he.. err.. she sent me a joke”, as she spoke, she deleted Vijay’s thread completely, in fear of being scrutinized by her brother.
Harini lied to Arvind about it. If she had treated Vijay just like any other friend of hers she would have opened up. His comforting behavior when she was hurt, his caring attitudes to check on her health throughout the day, made her feel special. She thought Vijay was treating her special.
Harini and Vijay started sharing many special moments together. They spoke to each other at least once a day. They both could sense that they were in verge of building a strong relationship.
It was one cold evening, Arvind was busy watching television. His father, who was working with a client from home, was annoyed by the television sound. He came out from his room just to see his son lazily lying on the sofa and switching channels.
“Can you please take life a bit more serious?”, he shouted at his son.
“What dad?”, Arvind gave a wry smile.
“Enough . You don’t have to mock at me. Your sister would be joining college the coming year. Being two years senior, please try to complete engineering at least before her. Try to study and clear your arrears.”
Arvind broke into laughter.
“Your daughter? Is she going to pursue engineering?”, he continued to laugh.
“Stop it. I know she has some other dream. Those are practically impossible. Harini will obey me. She will do engineering”, his father spoke in haste and left the living room.
Arvind looked at Harini who was standing near her room entrance, stuck to door in grief. She wanted to become an interior designer. She did not expect her father to stop her dream. She was worried. Suddenly her mobile rang. It was a call from Vijay.
“Hello”, she answered in a sad tone.
“What happened, Harini? You sound dull”, Vijay’s tone saddened too.
Harini narrated her dream to become an interior designer and how her father was against it.
“Hey Harini. How serious are you with this? I mean have you decided where to join for the course. Are you aware of their admission procedures?”
“Of course. I am aiming in joining at IIAD, Indian institute of Arts and Design, where I would study interior decoration for two years. The Admission procedures are pretty simple. But once I complete the course, I have to do a certification only after which I will be recognized better”, she spoke in single breathe.
“Don’t worry. We will convince your dad.”
“Wait and watch”, Vijay ended the call.
It was after a couple of weeks, upon constant reminder and insists, Arvind invited Vijay’s family home for a dinner. Vijay, Vidyuth, their mom and dad had come. Arvind’s parents liked Vidyuth very much, right in the first meet. Harini and Vijay did not miss to exchange glances every now and then. While they were casually talking post dinner, Vijay’s father got a call.
“Oh, really”, he was all smiles.
“Convey my best wishes and regards to him. It feels great that you had shared this news.”
“Sure, Sure will convey to my family”, he cut the call.
“It was a call from my brother. Her daughter has become a recognized Interior designer. He wanted to share the good news with me”, he spoke as he placed his mobile on the table.
“An interior designer?”, Arvind’s mom asked in excitement.
“Yes, Madam. It is a highly growing profession now. “, added Vijay’s dad.
“I remember she did her college in II …. “, Vijay’s mom spoke as she fumbled for words. She had forgotten the college name.
“IIT?”, asked Arvind’s dad.
“No. IIAD”, Vijay’s dad completed.
“Oh my god. I cannot believe this. Is that a good college? My daughter wants to study there. I really do not see big scope in that field. Hence was asking her to pursue engineering.”, Arvind’s dad exclaimed.
“Sir, please do not think I am poking my nose into your daughter’s career. Interior designing is the fast growing field. Basically being an owner of a company, I can really see how people want their dream houses and offices. Right from hospitals to hotels, interior design has become a must, to attract customers”, Vijay’s dad spoke in true emotion.
Arvind’s dad thought for a while.
As Vijay’s parents boarded their car, Vijay Thanked his dad.
“Thank you Dad. Thank you for cooking up stories about the non-existing brother and his daughter. We had to cook up stories, so that Harini is allowed to pursue her dream.”
“Son, listen. If it had been anything else, I would not have co-operated. But I strongly believe children must be allowed to choose what they excel in, rather than forcing them into what we like. Being a Master degree holder in Mechanical engineering from IIT and a Management degree holder from IIM, I did not force you to take Mechanical. When I asked you, you told ECE was your choice. I thought you would at least aim for joining IIT. But you did not choose it. Now your brother, he is also following your footsteps. But I am not at all disappointed with this. I am happy I Gave my children their freedom.” Vijay’s dad spoke in true emotion.
Later that night, Vijay received a call from Harini.
“Gee… Vijay…. Thank you”, he could sense the excitement in her voice.
“Why thanking me?”, Vijay suppressed a smile.
“Come on. Don’t be modest. It was just because of you my Dad is re-considering his decision. Also convey my special wishes to your cousin.”
Vijay laughed. ”Such a cousin does not exist. That was a story to make your dad re-consider his decision.”
“You did so much for me? To make my dream come true? “, Harini was emotional.
“Anything for you, Harini. I would love to carry your dreams on my shoulders and brighten your future. I wish I could walk in the direction where your eyesight points to.”
There was a long pause. Harini was not sure how to react. She was overwhelmed by how Vijay had been trying to make her successful. Vijay broke the silence.
“Good night, Harini. Sleep well.”
“Good night Vijay, Bye.”
As they ended the call, Harini edited Vijay’s name in her mobile. She renamed it as ‘MyLife’. Vijay had already renamed her contact as ‘MyLove’.
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