I was strolling across the narrow by-lanes of Central Kolkata which are dotted with abundant bookstores on both sides of the road. I was heading towards a particular shop. I was warmly greeted by the shop owner since I was quite regular over there.
I have a fetish for old books and personal diaries. It often sounds quite awkward for many people, but I do believe that these books and diaries are the clandestine treasure troves of much immense literary opulence. The books which grab my attention are generally not well recognized in the general audience. But I have gone through them and have realized that most of these books have great content and literary values. And these diaries mostly contain the personal documentations of the English people that vividly give an insight into their lives in India. I believe that these diaries have considerable historical value and a historian friend of mine is also quite enthusiastic about these diaries. He is also a connoisseur of these diaries and we often share our collections and experiences.
The shopkeeper was quite familiar with my interest and he somehow always manages to get hold of some valuable collections. I hardly return empty-handed from his store. He started showing me several old Bengali books and then he came up with a hardbound diary. I was quite intrigued at the sight of the diary since it has been almost six months since I have been successful to procure any personal diary.
I hastily opened the pages of the diary and I came to know from its title page that it was written by Camellia Brown. I turned over a few pages and understood that the lady was quite frugal in penning down her thoughts. It would hardly take half an hour to go through this diary. I instantly purchased the diary along with a few old books and headed back home. I was feeling a pang of excitement bubbling within me. Going through the accounts of somebody’s life always provides me with a hefty dose of forbidden pleasure. I knew that morally it is not justified to go through anybody’s diary, but the inquisitiveness compels me to go through these personal diaries. After returning I briskly ambled towards my study table and started devouring the contents of that hardbound diary.
I was never fond of writing anything. But I have to vent out my emotions somewhere. Today I met Vinod who is my father’s newly appointed assistant. He is the first Indian man with whom I have come in close terms since our arrival, a couple of months back from Plymouth. There is something about Vinod that instantly intrigued me. He is a tall, dark well-built man whose demeanor is extremely polite. There is something in that smile that attracted me. He was fluently conversing with me, although English was not his native tongue.
May 7, 1944
We were sitting this evening in a cozy chair in the verandah with a cup of tea. Father was busy with one of his clients and Vinod was free. He was discussing his childhood, his family, and his mother. I could feel that he was quite at ease with me while discussing his life.
May 15, 1944
This week has been quite a memorable one for me. Father allowed me to roam around the city with Vinod. I was mostly engrossed in conversations with Vinod. I listened with rapt attention to everything that he uttered. We also went to a church and a temple. Vinod is such an amiable and learned man. He is so aware of his cultural heritage. I am trying to visualize India through his eyes. I am no more feeling fish out of the water over here. I am feeling at ease with Vinod and his country. I am enjoying his company to the hilt. Vinod also seems to relish my company and his attitude suggests that he is always hankering to spend some lonely time with me.
May 28, 1944
I was running a fever for quite some time. Father has called some doctors and I am under medication. Vinod is visiting me daily with a handful of fresh flowers. Oh! That contagious smile and the look in his eyes, I wish I was not sick. Then I could hold his hands tightly and loiter around a nearby park. But alas, when will I come round?
June 8, 1944
It has been a couple of days since I have recovered from illness. Vinod was indeed quite relieved to see me come to life once again. We are spending the evenings together. I do cherish each moment spent with Vinod. I hope we could spend more time together. But my father is mostly keeping him busy throughout the day…..
I flipped across the pages of the diary since I was feeling a tad bored going through the detailed romantic accounts. The lady restricted her writing with her personal details only and did not even spare a thought about what was going around. The year which is mentioned in the diary is quite a tumultuous period in Indian history when the Indian freedom fighters were trying desperately to end the British supremacy and the Second World War was also ensuing simultaneously. But the lady has dodged such pieces of information. Probably she was not aware of the events around her.
I was a bit disappointed and was about to finish my reading when suddenly the last couple of pages grabbed my attention.
March 3, 1945
I cannot even manage to muster the courage to inform him about Vinod. Vinod is behaving quite indifferently these days. I am trying my best to convince him. But he is not paying any attention. He seems to be avoiding me. I think he hardly cares about my feelings nowadays. I am
constantly urging to confess our feelings to my father and his family. But he has clearly stated that it is impossible. However, I cannot imagine anybody else other than Vinod. How can I just get over him? I hope I could be so pragmatic like Vinod.
March 4, 1945
Today is such a wretched day of my life. Vinod had come to invite us to his marriage, which is to be held next week. How can he so merciless. He never even bothered to inform me earlier. How can he betray me like this? No, I am unable to take this anymore. He has to pay for this. I have decided what I will do. I have already collected some arsenic. Tomorrow we will sip our last cup of tea, seating close on the veranda.
I closed the diary and started pondering upon the mental state of Lady Camellia. Was it love? How can love be so destructive?