Hi Friends, here I am with Part 3 of the series (apologies for the delay). Hope you are enjoying it.
PS: Those of you who haven’t read the first two parts are advised to go back on the blog and read the series in its proper sequence. You don’t want the suspense screwed up, do you!?
It had been eleven days and three hours since he’d left her alone in that jungle.
On being inquired about her, he’d told that there had been an accident during their hunting trip and she’d been killed by a tiger and her body taken away. To give credibility to his story, he’d been in mourning since then.
In reality too, he was in deep mourning – mourning the death of the only love he’d known; mourning the end of the word ‘trust’ from his life; mourning the demise of the only relationship he’d come to value; mourning the end of humanity in him – leaving a helpless woman in the middle of jungle to die a lonely and horrific death.
He had been so enraged that he could burn the whole world down; he wanted to kill every woman who swore love for a man; he could kill every man who trusted a woman blindly; and he could definitely burn those men alive who stole others’ women. But all he’d actually done was to leave the woman he loved more than his own life for such a horrendous fate; and somehow this was more painful than anything else. With each passing day, it was becoming more and more unbearable.
He cursed himself for doing what he’d done, and more so for impulsively sending Chinu away on a long leave after paying a considerable amount of money immediately after returning. Had Chinu been available, he would’ve surely sent him to get her out of that wilderness. He still was angry enough not to see her face again, but Chinu could’ve been instructed to extract her and leave her wherever she wanted to go.
Chinu had supposedly gone to his native village, some five hundred miles away, whose name he could never pronounce properly; and there was no means of communication to contact him, with his cell phone continually being out of reach.
The guilt was rising its head inside, and he didn’t want any public gatherings to mourn her declared death; however he couldn’t forcefully deny the ‘atma shanti prayer’ when the people close to him insisted that it was important for the peace and deliverance of the departed soul.
Against his liking, quite a crowd gathered for the Prayer. He somehow went through the rituals as guided by the pandit; though all the while, it was utterly suffocating for him – forced to face the guilt and the pain, the humiliation of condolences being showered upon him. The penetrating eyes of the visitors seemed to be violating his inner self; he felt so naked and vulnerable under their scrutinising gaze, almost as if being molested. He sighed with relief when the ordeal came to an end. He just stood near the main door with folded hands and bent head, not daring to look anyone in eyes, not trusting his voice to say some appropriate words, silently thanking the visitors on their way out.
He kept standing like that without moving a muscle, till everyone left, and stayed that way even after the last one had stepped out of the door. With a sigh, relieved that he was finally alone, he hurriedly turned to get inside his house and almost crashed into a white clad figure. Startled, he jumped back a step and looked at the obstruction. It was an elegant looking woman dressed in a white saree.
“I’m sorry if I startled you. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.” She said with folded hands.
“You…?” He inquired as he hadn’t seen her ever before.
“You don’t know me as we haven’t met before.” She clarified, “Your wife and me are…er…were.. friends, but I couldn’t be there for her wedding as I was out of the country. Got back an evening prior to the day you people went on that hunting trip and she…” She left the sentence incomplete.
“Oh! She never mentioned about you.” He said doubtfully.
“That’s not surprising. She was never the talking type..liked to keep things to herself. I had to work really hard for her to tell me about you during your courtship period. She never liked to share her true feelings with anyone.” She said looking in vacuum, her lips slightly curving into a hint of a smile, apparently thinking about some fond memory.
“You seem to be really close to her.” He said, closely looking at the expressions of pain in her face with tears hanging on her eyelashes, “I hardly know anything about her life before marriage. Can you tell me about her, her…friends…?”
“Well, there isn’t much to tell; she was kind of an introvert; didn’t make many friends; I happened to be closest to her.” The ache in her eyes was unmistakable.
“Did she have any…any…boy…er…male friend?” He asked hesitatingly.
She looked at him sharply. “What do you mean?”
“Er…no…I don’t mean that way…just curious…knowing her shy nature..” He stammered.
“No. She generally stayed away from boys.” she replied with a plain face, “We did have some boys in our group but she wasn’t ever interested in any, though most of them were definitely interested in her. I used to tease her at times to have a little fun with them, but… “
“Oh…!” He exclaimed with a thoughtful expression.
“Is something bothering you?” She queried.
“No. It’s just that… we had… such short time together.. for me to know her well…” He wasn’t sure what to say.
“I understand. Nothing I say or do can help you in dealing with the pain of her loss. I know it’s not probably the best time to ask you this, but I’m again leaving the country next week…so….can I… once see her..r.. room?” It was her turn to stammer.
He looked at her strangely, “Well, I guess that should be alright.” He escorted her to his bedroom. As she looked around, he clarified, a little embarrassed at the shoddy state of the room – “She didn’t have a …separate bedroom…and with her gone, the room is…a little…un..clean..”
“It’s okay…er…it’s a little embarrassing…I mean not the room…actually I had a very important ‘thing’ of mine… kept safely with her…don’t know where she might have kept it.” She was visibly uncomfortable.
The puzzled look on his face seemed to say ‘what kind of thing could be so important that she wants it immediately’. “She generally kept all her belongings in her cupboard.” He said pointing to a cupboard. She swiftly opened it and started rummaging through the clothes. After thoroughly checking it out, she turned around disappointed. “No, it’s not here. Any other place…?”
“I don’t know…what is it that you are looking for?” He asked, his eyes squinting, his heart thudding with unknown dread.
“Well, it’s actually quite an insignificant looking thing…er…a little pink box with……………..” her lips were moving, but he wasn’t able to hear anything further over the loud thudding of his heartbeat booming in his ears. He somehow stumbled to his study table in the corner of the room, yanked the bottom drawer open and took out the little pink box. “Is..th…this the…one…” his own voice seemed to come from far away.
“Oh yes. This is the one.” She almost jumped with joy. With two long steps, she reached out and almost snatched the box from his hand and turned to leave. She stopped at the bedroom door, half turned and said- “Thank you for the help, and sincere apologies for causing you this trouble. Take care of yourself.” And she was gone without even as much as looking at him properly.
His head spun violently and he had to hold on to the study chair to stop himself from falling. ‘What the hell I’ve done…f**k…what the bloody hell have I done!’ He somehow pulled the chair and collapsed on it. He had no idea how long he remained like that; but when he came to his senses, he abruptly got up and rushed outside. “I’ve got to save her…I’ve got to go to her…” He kept mumbling as he got into his Bentley and drove off. He drove like crazy, till he reached the edge of the jungle.
“Shit! How do I go ahead? I don’t know the route inside the jungle.” He slurred aloud, “Chinu…I got to find him first.”
He turned the car around towards Chinu’s native village. Night fell but he didn’t stop anywhere. By morning, he reached the general area where Chinu’s village was supposed to be located. After frantically inquiring about Chinu’s village from dozens of people while travelling through endless labyrinth of country roads, he finally made it to the village by afternoon. Once there, finding his house wasn’t so difficult. However, all he found there were his aged parents. They told him that Chinu had come there about twelve days back. He had given them a lot of money and had left the very next day for some important work. They had no idea where he had gone, and when was he expected back.
Shattered and frustrated, he started back. “I’ve got to get to her”, was what he kept chanting while driving back through the night. When he reached back to the edge of the jungle, the chirping of birds indicated that the time of daybreak was approaching. Without thinking even for a moment, he left the car there and started on foot. He wasn’t carrying any food or water but without caring about anything, he kept moving in the general direction of the villa based on his memory of the last trip.
By late evening, he realized that he was lost. He hadn’t eaten or slept for more than fifty hours but he didn’t want to stop yet; he wanted to find her as fast as possible. As the darkness fell, the jungle began to come alive. However he kept moving without caring about the strange and scary sounds coming from all around. He could hardly see where he was going, with moon light barely able to filter through the gaps amongst the thick trees.
A muffled growl stopped him dead in his tracks. As he tried to look around, he saw a pairs of glowing diamonds floating in the air. As the realization dawned on him that these were the eyes of some wild predator, probably a tiger, his mind froze. Before he could think of a way out, he realized that he was surrounded by many similar pairs of glowing diamonds. With the growls coming from all directions, it became clear that he was surrounded by a pack of wolves and there was no way out.
With menacing growls, many of them pounced on him from different sides; and his heart-wrenching shrieks rang out in the darkness of the jungle, infused with the words “I’m sorry my love”!