Sudeshna had just finished writing a letter to her sister in Bangalore when the doorbell rang. She looked at the clock it was 9p.m. people did not call on each other usually at this time in this small town. ‘Who can it be?’ Sudeshna opened the window of her bedroom and peered out. There was a light in the verandah. A young man dressed in a black jacket and jeans with a beard and specs stood outside. The temperature had dipped to 5 degree C. “Who is it?”Sudeshna asked.
“You wouldn’t know me, I am Abhay Sharma nephew of Mr. Vijay Sharma.” He pointed to the house at the corner. “They are not at home thought I would wait somewhere for them.” He held a letter in his hand that he said Mr.Sharma had written to his sister, Abhya’s mother asking her to send her son for some personal work.”
Sudeshna took the letter through the grilled door of the verandah it was written in Mr.Vijay Sharma’s letter head.
Sudeshna ushered Abhay into the drawing room. “Mrs.Sharma is a great friend of mine”. The young man nodded, his eyes strayed all across the room. There was a T.V, a fridge and some antics on the mantelpiece. But what seemed to catch Abhay’s eyes was a photograph of a middle aged man with a garland around it and incense burning in front. Sudeshna followed the young man’s gaze. “My husband today is his second death anniversary.”
Minutes ticked by, Sudeshna took some food from the fridge and warmed it for the young man. Though reluctant at first he did have it. Sudeshna showed him to the guest room. “Rest for the night and tomorrow you can see your uncle”.
Sudeshna felt terribly alone, her parents were both dead and none of her relatives were near her to share her moment of grief the death of her husband had left her with only emptiness , she had no children somehow the presence of the young man seemed to have a reassuring feeling since that day was her husband’s death anniversary.
It was early morning someone was pressing the doorbell. It was the police.
“Madam are you alright?” The front door was open.
Sudeshna looked around dazed. “Where is Abhay?” she asked.
The police entered the house, “we have information that your house was the target of a gang last night. The layout of your house was found in the possession of a young man who was arrested near the bus stop.”
“Did he have a beard?” Sudeshna’s voice was barely audible.
“No he was clean shaven”. The police said.
Sudeshna almost heaved a sigh of relief. Why did she feel such an attachment for a stranger? Sudeshna looked around her house everything was the same as before, not an object was out of place. ‘But where was Abhay and why did he go away without informing her?’
An hour later Mr.Sharma and his wife arrived on the scene and was aghast to hear that a person had posed to be his nephew Abhay Sharma.
“My nephew is in Bangalore on official work,” Mr Sharma frowned. “My letterhead has been used could be the work of a peon who is involved with the gang must find out.”
Sudeshna knew there was a sum of four lakhs in the house that she had got after selling the small shop that her husband had bought. Due to bank closing she had not been able to deposit the money in the bank. The money was safe in the almirah.
Sudeshna thought of Abhay, something about him seemed familiar, the mole on the left cheek the way he had looked at her, the expression that had crossed his face when he had stared at her husband’s photo.
It was while remaking the bed in the guest room that Sudeshna found a silver locket with the initial R engraved on it under the pillow. There was the letter written in Mr Sharma’s letterhead and on it was written in bold letters ‘Sorry Rahul’. Sudeshna turned the locket and found the initial of the jeweler that she knew so well.
So that was it, Sudeshna now realized why the young man even after ten years and in a different guise had seemed familiar for he was Rahul Sen her husband’s favourite student.
Her husband the headmaster of a local school had the habit of rewarding students for remarkable feats in different fields be it sports, academics or bravery he had asked Sudeshna to get a silver locket engraved with the initial R. Rahul had won the locket as a reward for risking his life and rescuing a young woman from the clutches of three goons who were out to outrage her modesty.
Even though her husband bought him books and taught Rahul in private for free, an unwanted orphan in his uncle’s family Rahul had not been able to complete his studies. Sudeshna had met him on several occasions in school a most respectful boy she remembered. The last she heard about him was that he had fallen in bad company and was caught selling cinema tickets in black. Her husband was never the same after that Sudeshna remembered him saying “My teachings were all in vain”. .Rahul left the neighborhood soon afterwards.
Nine years ago Sudeshna and her husband had shifted to the small town situated a few km from Kolkata after his retirement and built this small house.
Sudeshna sighed, some goodness still remained in him for having recognized his headmaster and his wife. Rahul could not do what he had come for, he was still wearing the locket even after ten years her husband’s love and sincerity for him was the only warmth probably in Rahul’s cold and barren world.
The police officer who had gone to the other houses for routine check said “Do you have doubts on anyone Madam?”
Sudeshna cleared her voice “No” she said.
A few days later later Rahul surrendered to the police. Sudeshna read the news in the local paper. Her husband’s teachings were after all not in vain.