I was staring aimlessly at the crescent-shaped Naini lake wrapped in a thin blanket of misty fog.I could not recall how long I had been gazing, many thoughts were interwoven in my mind which resulted in the mental drift from the tranquil Kumaon hills to the mundane hustle-bustle of my home town, Kolkata. I could visualize the bylanes of Shyambazar, the place where I first met Satyaki. He was a common friend of one of my college batchmates. Our gang of girls was accompanied by three of our male batchmates including Satyaki for a sojourn at the banks of Ganges popularly coined as the Bag bazaar Ghat. Satyaki was an aspiring singer, he was trying his best to prove his mettle in the Bengali music industry. I admit that I was greatly affected by his enigmatic, personality, singing talent and that persistent innocent smile that always adorned his square face. His presence was infectious and without much realizing I was head over heels in love with Satyaki. It felt as if a magical spell had gripped both of us. And as the days rolled on our relation soon culminated in tying the knot. My family had some serious reservations since Satyaki was not established at that time and his family was not that well to do. But they consented only because of me. I could not imagine my life without him and I was just counting the days before our grand eternal union. But unfortunately, the magic spell did not last long. I soon realized that Satyaki was quite self-centered. He never tried to fathom my feelings, my emotions. As if he was quite a different person from the person that I used to love. He used to return home late at night dead drunk. I was keen to ignore all this ignorance and tried to console him. I realized that this aberration in his attitude was large because he failed to make a name for himself despite trying his level best. But soon things started falling apart. I could gradually realize Satyaki was submerged in a feeling of inferiority which was compelling him to misbehave with me. But still, it was my decision, I had to hold on to Satyaki. I no longer remember the exact sequence of events, but soon I found myself contesting against Satyaki for procuring a divorce in a suburban family courtroom. Suddenly I was brought back to my senses as an ice-cold touch ended my trance. It was the touch of my eight-year-old beloved niece, Tatan. She had accompanied her parents for a long walk along this pristine Naini lake. I soon realized that my younger sister, Arpita minutely observed me from the side of her oversized spectacles. She was clinging tightly to the hands of his husband, Arya, who was also gazing at me now. I then readily stood up from the bench and accompanied them to the Naini Mandir and the Nainital shopping complex. We came to Nainital for the last couple of days. It was a sudden plan which was possible since all three of us could manage this sojourn escaping from our mundane office schedules. Additionally, Tatan was also having her summer vacations. All these events perfectly orchestrated the execution of our Nainital sojourn. We also wanted our parents to join us, both of them had some health-related niggles which refrained them from joining us. However, the last couple of days had been quite rejoicing which made me forget the initial hesitation that I had regarding this tour. I felt a bit awkward to join the couple since both of them are always entrapped in a tight work schedule. They hardly get time to spend some time with each other. My presence would hamper their quality time. However, Arpita convinced me that I could take care of Tatan while they are busy romancing. But it was hardly the case for the last couple of days, all four of us were always together, laughing, pulling each other’s legs, sharing our tidbits.This afternoon after taking a sumptuous lunch in the restaurant of our hotel, I almost forced them to go for a stroll by themselves. They relented finally but Tatan played a spoilsport, she did not allow her parents to have a romantic afternoon walk. She accompanied them so I decided to sit on a wooden bench along the lakeside and gaze at this majestic lake glistening with the radiant rays of the afternoon sun. Many tourists were busy boating and I minutely observed their frolics. I was now walking beside Arpita tightly holding the hands of Tatan. Arpita was informing me that she had to do a lot of shopping for her in-laws. I was not taking much interest and was busy enjoying the soothing cool breeze that was persistently maneuvering across the lake. The breeze seemed to ameliorate the uneasiness which I felt after veering down the dark alleys of my life. We were soon nearing the market place and we saw a lot of tourists were engaged in shopping. Nainital is quite famous for its candles in all forms and sizes like fruits, flowers, miniature trees, birds, miniature transport vehicles, etc. Tartan was fascinated by such an exuberant display and she was quite keen to buy the whole shop. We did procure a lot of souvenirs and I bought a lot of candles for the colleagues of my bank. I was hesitating to buy a lavish candle in the shape of a banyan tree for Aritra. But some invisible force was acting within me which ultimately compelled me to do so. We were strolling beside the lake as the afternoon sun was gradually beginning to lose its radiance as dusk was setting in. The platform was being laid down for the onset of a majestic evening by the Naini lakeside and the breeze was gradually beginning to accumulate some chilliness. I wrapped my pullover tightly to my body and suddenly a few visuals flashed in my mind. Aritra was trying to convince me that he will not reveal anything about my past to his parents. But I was adamant, that I won’t commence a relation hiding the truth, it would be nothing less than coning his parents. We were seated on a desolate bench along the banks of a popular artificial lake in south Kolkata. But we ended up having a heated conversation and were unable to find any solution to our ensuing problem. Aritra was my colleague in the renowned private bank where I had bagged a job after that marital catastrophe. He was always aware of my situation, but he had always had a strong inclination towards me. I tried to ignore him initially, but I failed to do so in the long run. He was the only person to whom I could confide all my secrets, emotions, and feelings. The thing that attracted me the most about Aritra was that he was never too sympathetic about my situation which was in utter contrast to my other colleagues. It seemed very natural to him and he hardly mentioned anything about my past.He was keener to weave dreams about our future. And in no time, I also joined hands with him. Aritra confessed that it would very difficult for him to convince his parents about our marriage after revealing my past. But I did not relent. Things worsened as we both were not agreeing to change our minds. Arpita was very much aware of this situation and to my utter dismay, she was always on Aritra’s side. She was trying to see me settled, that was her ultimate goal, she was ready to compromise with morals and values for the sake of well being.I wish I could feel the same, but I could not which resulted in extending the gap between me and Aritra. It has been almost three weeks that we have talked with each other. I could easily comprehend the fate of our relationship. However, I am quite aware that Arpita and Arya are keeping in close contact with Aritra. But neither of them revealed any information about Arita. And I was not very keen to hear from him anyway. And suddenly while we were strolling back towards our hotel, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was Aritra! He was looking dapper in a navy blue leather jacket. He was gazing at us and he winked meaningfully at both Arya and Arpita with a wicked grin. It took me no time to understand that this was all preplanned. I was startled for a while and could hear my heartbeat. My heart was skipping at a rapid pace as Aritra closed on me and suddenly clasped my hands tightly. It seemed as if the entire ambiance was set for the building up of this particular moment. The chilly evening breeze, the surrounding Kumaon hills, the shimmering water gleaming by the luminous rays of the setting sun, the throng of tourists engaged in all sorts of fun and frolics, gleaming Arpita and Arya and a bewildered Tatan. All of these set pieces have been assembled by the Almighty with utmost care for setting the stage for the enactment of the second episode of my life.
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Author Kunal Pal