‘‘Hey how are you, feeling well now?” Dhara asked the man, ‘‘You were almost unconscious when you came to our village”. The man feebly replied, ‘‘Yes I am feeling much better now, thank you so much.’’ Dhara asked him, ‘‘I am Dhara. What is your name and how did you come here, this is not a tourist spot after all.’’
The man replied after a long pause. Probably he was trying to recollect something, ‘‘I am Prabir. I wanted to visit Lachung and was going in a hired car.
Then suddenly our car broke down and the driver abandoned me midway. I was left with no other option but to walk. I was exhausted and was feeling very cold. I reached here and after that, I don’t remember anything else.’’
Dhara replied, ‘‘You were running a very high fever. Luckily you were carrying some clothes in your bag. Aunt is also quite happy that you have recovered. She was awake all night by your side. My little son and his friends came to your rescue. He brought you over here. You take rest, I am coming with your soup.’’ Prabir became aware that he was lying on a small bed within a congested room of a typical Sikkimese wooden cottage. The windows were mostly closed except a partially closed one and gazing though that opening Prabir realized that it was late evening.
Dhara and his aunt now entered the room carrying a large bowl of soup. Her aunt smiled at Prabir and said something in her local tongue which he could not follow. Dhara translated it with a resplendent smile, ‘‘My aunt is very happy to see you recover so fast. She is a midwife in our village. And is the only person who has some experience in medicine. She has cured you.” The days started to roll along stealthily as Prabir completely recuperated.
He now started taking strolls around the village with Dhara and her son, Dharma and the fresh mountain breeze was aggravating his recovery. Prabir learned that Dhara was a widow. Her husband who was a driver of the tourist vehicles had died three years back in a car accident. She and her son were given shelter by her aunt.who happened to her only living relative. Dhara was a vibrant young girl, talking and smiling all the time. Prabir was surprised to know that she has gone through all these hardships. Prabir was beginning to enjoy her company.
One day while returning from their stroll, Dhara asked, ‘‘You are well now, you will leave soon, I guess.” Prabir smiled, ‘‘if you and your aunt have no problem, I would like to stay over here for some time. I am quite bored of city life. I want to start afresh. I am a bachelor, no family bindings. I want to do something over here, I don’t want to return to that city. The ambiance over here is great, so homely.” Dhara was quite pleased but still, she said, ‘‘we don’t have any problem. You can now shift to your vacant outhouse. But this is not your homeland. Will you be able to adapt to our mountain lifestyle. You will soon get bored over here also. I think you should think more about this.”
Prabir was determined that he would stay over here. Dhara’s aunt was a bit startled but she soon made all arrangements. Even she arranged for him a job of an apprentice to the local carpenter. Soon Prabir acclimatized with the rustic lifestyle of the serene Sikkimese valleys. As the days rolled on, the bonding between Dhara and Prabir became stronger.
And one-day Prabir expressed his feelings towards Dhara, ‘‘I know Dhara that you are a widow but I think you can start afresh, you, me, Dharma and aunt. We have already become a family. Let’s get married.’’ Dhara was a bit silent and then said, ‘‘But how can I trust you? You are like a vagabond, you tend to get bored after sometime. You had run away from your city life and have now settled here. But a day might come that you will get bored here and will try to escape from here. I can’t take any more heartbreak, Prabir’.’
Prabir then informed her aunt about his proposal. His aunt relented since gossips were going around the village regarding their relationship and she was quite relieved that Prabir himself had come up with the marriage proposal and in no time Dhara also shrugged off the hesitations and tied the knots with Prabir.
It has been almost a year since Prabir had first stepped into this quaint village. His life has completely transformed and was living happily with Dhara who was a doting wife and Dharma, who also became quite fond of him. Dhara soon became pregnant and Prabir was over the moon with excitement.
Then one day few armed policemen came to the village looking for a Bengali man. The villagers soon guided them to the Dhara’s cottage. Prabir was dragged from the cottage by some policemen, Dhara protested saying, ‘‘What has he done? Why are you taking him like this? He is my husband”.
The policeman replied in a gruff voice, ‘‘Your husband? He is a terrorist! He was involved in a series of bomb blasts that took place in Kolkata last year. He had absconded then. We were informed that he is taking shelter in a small village in North Sikkim. The driver who was taking him to Lachung had identified him. At last, after four months of scouting through all the nearby villages, we have spotted him. You have unknowingly given shelter to a fugitive; you and your aunt will have to come to the police station for some inquiry.”
Prabir protested, ‘‘But I have been framed, I did not to anything officer.” ‘‘You better explain that in court. We have enough evidence against you. And you had absconded also. Now keep quiet and just follow our instructions.”The policemen took him away. Prabir looked back at Dhara for one instant and saw that Dhara was stupefied and she stood there silently, clutching the door of the cottage.