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The Widower

It was pelting down over the small cottage amidst the densely forested uneven land surrounded by several hillocks. Ritam, a middle-aged man was standing near the glass window of a neatly decorated spacious room in the cottage.

Ritam was recently posted to this quaint small town in the Puruliya district as the manager in the local branch of a nationalized bank. This cottage has been provided by the bank.He was gazing at the persistent showers when suddenly a young girl entered the room and said, ‘‘Will I get you some coffee and snacks, sahib?”

Ritam gently nodded and said ‘‘Yes Purnima, make a cup for yourself also”.Purnima smiled and ran away.

Purnima was her domestic help and she was the only other person in the cottage. There is a gardener also but he stays at the outhouse. Ritam was quite satisfied with the service of Purnima. She did not wait for any instructions, she somehow understood his needs and promptly catered the service.

Purnima was a local orphan girl. She was brought up by an aunt. She has completed her school but not commence higher studies due to severe financial constraints. But she had a knack of reading and has borrowed some storybooks from Ritam, a few days back.

Ritam now came near his bedside.There was a photo frame on the bead side table. A middle-aged bespectacled graceful woman was seen gleaming in that photo.It was the photo of his late doting wife, Madhu.She had passed away four years back. She was suffering from blood cancer for quite a while.

Ritam and Madhu were college friends and their seven-year-long friendship finally culminated into a relationship.They were quite a happy couple and were quite content with themselves.But the only thing that bothers them often was that they did not have any issues.

The doctors informed them that due to some physiological anomalies, Madhu won’t be able to conceive. Madhu got very depressed since she desperately wanted to feel motherhood. Ritam then decided to adopt a boy from a local orphanage. The boy, Ravi was now nine years old and had been sent to a far-off boarding school after the demise of Madhu.

Ritam still remembered those last words of Madhu, ‘‘I know that you love me a lot dear, but after I pass away, you will feel quite lonely.You should marry again. She could take care of you and Ravi.Please don’t hesitate.. ”.

Ritam was silent that day but he knew that could never keep her last request. Most of his relatives also gave him the same advice. But Ritam could never imagine anyone else than Madhu.After some time everyone understood that Ritam has chosen to live all by himself.

He was staring at Madhu’s photo when suddenly Purnima came with the coffee.They chatted for a while.Purnima was talking about the new novel she was currently reading.Ritam was quietly listening to her while his mind was occupied with the memories of Madhu.The time began to roll on quite smoothly for both Ritam and Purnima. Their bonding soon strengthened in their uninterrupted desolateness.

But suddenly one day, Purnima fell very ill. She was running a high fever and could hardly raise herself from the bed. Ritam took charge of the household chores and started taking the utmost care of Purnima.Purnima felt very embarrassed but she was too ill to protest. A local doctor was also called and soon after taking his medicines, Purnima revived after a few days. She snatched all the household responsibilities from Ritam and it was evident that her care and dedication towards Ritam had got amplified.Ritam also could feel that he was constantly starting to think about Purnima.The mind which was always preoccupied with old memories suddenly was now starting to deviate.But Ritam started ignoring this and consoled himself that he is just sympathetic towards this innocent orphan girl.

A few months passed away and one day Purnima informed her that she had to visit her village since her aunt was quite ill. Purnima packed her bags and left him. Ritam could feel a pang of remorse had hit him.He was left all by himself in this cottage.He had none to share his feelings with. It is very hard for a person who has seen daylight to cope up with sudden blindness compared to a person who is blind from birth. This was exactly what Ritam was facing at that time.He had made peace with the fact that he had to spend the rest of his life all by himself, reminiscing the memories of his beloved wife. But his mindset had been turned upside down after feeling the warmth of Purnima’s company. He was constantly fighting an internal battle.

In the absence of Purnima, Ritam realized that she had become an integral part of his life.He was, in fact, hankering for hearing her familiar footsteps and that sweet voice which was always dripping with childishness. These realizations started tormenting him since he thought that he was cheating his late wife, how could he get attracted to another woman.

After a day or so, another young girl came as a substitute for Purnima. She was her neighbor and he informed Ritam that Purnima’s aunt has not yet recovered. This girl’s presence started haunting Ritam even more. But Ritam was helpless. He even decided that he could pay a visit to Purnima’s place for seeing her aunt. But then he discarded that plan since he thought that it won’t look good, many people might take it otherwise.

After about three weeks, Purnima finally returned. But to her utter dismay, she noticed some drastic changes in the behavior of Ritam.He now hardly conversed with her and kept himself immersed in reading books. Purnima used to eagerly wait for their usual evening chats but it never happened. She realized that her master was trying his best to avoid her. She was unable to realize the reason behind this change.

And one-day Ritam called her in his room and said, ‘‘I will be leaving this place, tomorrow Purnima. I have applied for a transfer that would be soon granted.You have taken care of me, Purnima.I am quite pleased with you. I am leaving you all my books…And I will also clear all your remaining salary tomorrow.Take care of yourself…’’Purnima could not believe her ears. She was stupefied.

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