The media today needs nothing but gossip. Circulations of magazines and newspapers touch the million mark just by publishing controversial affairs and the not so private lives of celebrities and politicians. Then why are they all present here at this press conference, he thought. He had read the book and she was indeed a remarkable story-teller, but does that even matter to the media. An 18-year-old’s debut book, Mangalore Blues.
As people started networking during the high tea, he heard someone whisper,
“Sshhh….listen! Who cares about the book! But never mind, we can always publish her pictures along with her mother’s story. Yes! Yes! The one who killed her husband when she caught him in bed with another woman. There’s another story doing the rounds that she killed him for another man.”
Priya answered almost all the questions and the event was about to be wrapped up. He has never published a story on his e-magazine, The Real Side, without listening to the entire story and points of views of all concerned. He finally stood up and asked,
“Could you please share the muse for this book of yours?”.
“I’m glad that at least one person bothered to ask this question instead of focusing on my mother’s infamous affair and the gossip around it. And I’m sure that only you’ve read the book, gentleman. Thank you!”
And then she started reading the last page of the book.
She hit him with the hammer. She did it again and again. Again and again. Even as she saw life seep out of him. And their five-year-old daughter lay next to him barely clothed. She was writhing in pain and was completely shocked and terrified.
Though Malavika was against this custom of Pennukaanal Chadangu (the prospective groom coming along with an army of family and friends to see and assess the prospective bride), she gave in to her parents wishes and agreed to it. So there she was dressed in a peacock blue saree, draped perfectly over her curvaceous body. Dressed to kill as they say. She went by slowly offering tea to the elders of the boy’s family before she reached him. As she stood there offering the cup of tea to Ramesh, she chanced upon the unusual tattoo on his neck. She had seen that tattoo before! If only she could remember where.
It’s been hours after they left and Malavika was still desperately trying to remember when and where had she seen the tattoo.
As she tossed and turned sleeplessly on the bed, the tattoo became clearer and clearer in her mind. She tried hard to remember but to no avail and it was hours before she finally fell asleep.
It was almost a fortnight and there were talks going on between the two families. In between Ramesh had started talking to Malavika for hours everyday. She found him absolutely fitting into her concept of a life partner.
It was almost a month and Acha finally asked her to give her opinion about the alliance.
“What’s your take Maalloo? Are you okay with this alliance? How do you find Ramesh? Think about it carefully and let me know in a day or two as they are waiting for our revert.”
They had the most beautiful relationship that a father and daughter could have. Yet something stopped Maalloo from sharing her concern about the tattoo with Acha. She could have asked Ramesh directly but didn’t want to embarrass him. She finally decides to let go and showed the green signal to Acha.
The preparation for the engagement was in full swing. Just two days were left for the big day and Maalloo along with her best friend Priya went to the boutique to try the dress she had given for stitching. In the bus, as she stood behind Priya and was engrossed in her chit-chat, she felt something around her hips and as she turned around, she saw a shabby young man smiling wickedly. The second time it happened, she turned around and slapped him as hard as she could and that alerted the crowd in the bus. The man quickly jumped out of the running bus. She was clearly upset at what happened when Ramesh’s number flashed on her phone screen.
She told him about the incident and was agitated at his casual response to it.
“It happens to almost every girl travelling in a public transport in our country. You girls must be used to such incidents. Why do you take it to your heart? It’s just another one to add to the many you would have already experienced.“
And he started laughing hard. She never expected such a response from Ramesh and was fuming with anger.
That night as she lay half asleep, she was reminded of an episode that happened years back while she was in school. Along with two boys, she was the only girl selected from her school for the Inter-School Science Fair exhibition and competition. It was the finals and it was on a Saturday, and an off for the school where the exhibition was held. There were only the participants, a few teachers and the principal in the compound waiting for the judges to arrive anytime now. She had gone to the washroom and was on her way back when suddenly she was pulled into a classroom and a masked boy in school uniform had poured ink all over her face and her white uniform. He then tied her hands to a bench and declared, “I and only I must win this competition. How dare you even dream of it, you crazy girl!”
She woke up panting for breath. Yes. That tattoo on the neck, it was him. She replayed the scenes in her mind again and again to ensure it was the same tattoo. With trembling hands she opened the briefcase that had all her school certificates, report cards, photographs and amidst all lay the newspaper. She was praying hard, as she took out the newspaper and opened it. And there she saw the name in bold black letters, RAMESH NAMBIAR beneath the photograph of the boy with the tattoo on his neck.
It was after years that Sandhya decided to get out of her house and spend some time with herself, for herself. It had been ages since she went out all alone. The monotonous lifestyle was killing her. She didn’t have any complaints about her handling the kids and home front almost all alone. After getting them admitted to school Sanjeev never had the time to attend any of the annual days, none of their performances, not even a single PTM. She was okay with that too, but all she wanted was him to spend some time with her. She yearned to spend some quality time with him. It was not that Sandhya didn’t try. She did try talking to Sanjeev, but he was never available or rather he was always busy ‘establishing’ his business that he started seven years back after quitting his corporate job. What pinched her was that he did not have the time to even pick up her calls and he never bothered to call back.
She was talking to her sister on her mobile when she reached the mall. After disconnecting, she kept the phone on mute and went into the Orra store. She had already made up her mind about the diamond ring that she had wanted to gift Sanjeev on their fifteenth anniversary, so it didn’t take long to finalize. After making the payment, she immediately rushed out and took a taxi to ensure that she reaches home well before the school bus reaches. As the taxi moved, she picked up her phone from her handbag.
38 missed calls in 10 mins! She wondered what was going on.
She doesn’t remember the last time her phone flashed Sanjeev’s number. She was surprised and worried at the same time. She immediately called him up and to add to her surprise, he picked up the call in just two rings.
“Sandhya, where were you? In the kitchen? Or where you chit-chatting with the neighbor?”
“What happened Sanjeev? Is all well with you?”
“Did you loose your credit card somewhere? Someone seems to have made a transaction of over a lakh on your card. I just got an SMS and wanted to check with you before getting the card blocked.“