‘Ma’am, may I come in,’ a familiar sweet female voice halted my engrossed mind.
I involved in checking the copies of my students. Even I did not heed the hustle-bustle commotions of students outside my cabin.
‘Yes, come in,’ I said without noticing the person.
‘Good morning, ma’am,’ the female voice addressed me.
I remained sometimes so engrossed that I had forgotten to take my lunch.
I had to finish the copies of my students very soon. For the last few days, I was busy in College Annual function.
I became a cultural program coordinator. Before I took the responsibility, I declined my students many times.
‘I can’t, I can’t,’ I said, declining them.
But in vain. They did not move on and stuck over my head. I got a hangover with their non-stop pleas.
‘No ma’am, No ma’am,’ my students stressed me. ‘Please ma’am, please ma’am, you’ve to become our cultural program coordinator.’
At last, I had to accept.
‘Okay, fine,’ I said.
‘Thank you, madam. Thank you madam,’ my student overjoyed.
Then what, all responsibilities fell on me. And I had to work for day and night.
Thank God, I got some good students who helped and supported me a lot.
Finally, the program was successful.
Our college principal sir, Mr. Dutta and my colleagues praised me for the same.
As a result, I could not check the exam papers. I had to give the result after couple of days. Still, hundreds of copies left.
I didn’t reply. In fact, I had forgotten that somebody was inside my cabin and waiting for my response.
After a few minutes, I realized.
‘O my Goodness!’ I said, surprisingly. ‘Amrita and Pranjal, both of you are here. I’m so happy to see you.’
After three years, I was meeting Amrita and Pranjal. They were my best students. In fact, they were like my best buddies.
‘Sorry for kept you waiting,’ I apologized.
‘It’s okay, ma’am,’ Amrita said.
‘Come hug me, Amrita, Pranjal,’ I said.
We hugged together.
I felt like I met my lost buddies, Mitali and Munmi after so many years.
‘Take a seat, Amrita, Pranjal,’ I said.
Amrita and Pranjal, both seated in the chair in front of me.
I kept the checked copies aside.
‘How are you, both?’ I asked them with a smile.
‘We are fine, ma’am,’ Amrita replied. ‘How do you do, ma’am?’
‘As always,’ I said, ‘happy and enjoying with my students.’
‘Okay, Amrita, Pranjal, what do you like to have?’ I asked.
‘Tea, coffee or cold drink?’
‘No ma’am. Thanks.’ Amrita said.
‘We met after so many years,’ I said, ‘and you declined, huh?’
I pressed the calling bell.
‘Yes, madaam,’ Madan khura said.
Madan khura was our college peon cum chaiwala.
‘Madan khura, serve us three cups of tea and biscuits.’
‘Madan khura,’Amrita halted. ‘We don’t want anything.’
Madan khura stopped.
‘Madan khura, how are you?’ Pranjal asked, smiling. ‘Can you recognize me?’
‘Aree, Pranjal beta,’ Madan khura, blushed. ‘Yes, yes, I can recognize you.’
‘Madan khura, do you recognize me or not?’ Amrita also asked.
‘Aree, Amrita beti, you too,’Madan khura said. ‘What a great surprised?’
‘How about Reena, Madan khura?’ Amrita asked.
Reena was only daughter of Madan khura.
‘She married last year,’ Madan khura answered.
‘In which place, Madan khura?’
‘Madaam,’ Madan khura asked me. ‘Can I bring tea or not?’ He was puzzled.
‘Madan khura, you serve us cold drink instead of tea,’I said.
Madan khura left my cabin.
‘Now tell me about you,’ I said.
Amrita and Pranjal smiled and gestured with each other.
‘Ma’am,’ both Amrita and Pranjal said. ‘You please close your eyes.’ They both requested me.
‘Why?’ I frowned.
‘Please, ma’am!’ Pranjal said.
‘Now give your hands forward, ma’am,’ Amrita said.
‘What are you doing?’
For a fraction of second, I felt that I was back to my childhood days when I used to play hide-seek. And my friends blindfolded me and naughty Raj came from behind and pushed me hard.
I gave my hands forward and I sensed that something heavy stuff was on my opened palms.
‘Now open your eyes, ma’am,’ Amrita and Pranjal said together.
When I opened my eyes, what I saw was a gift packet.
‘Ma’am,’ Amrita said, ‘this is a small gift for you.’
‘Ma’am, please,’ Pranjal pleaded.
My eyes moisten with tears. It was like a special moment for me.
I accepted wholeheartedly.
Amrita handed me a card on my hand.
I frowned, trying to query her.
I saw a wedding card.
‘So, you’re getting married?’ I exclaimed with joy.
‘Yes, ma’am,’ Amrita said. ‘And you’ve to come.’
‘You're getting wedding and I wouldn’t come. How could it be possible? Why not, I will definitely come,’ I said.
Amrita and Pranjal smiled.
I read the wedding date of Amrita and Pranjal on the wedding card.
As I read the wedding date, I was stunned. I stood up from my chair.
I could not spot anything for a moment. Everything appeared dusk, dark, and blank in front of my eyes.
I was fainted.
Then, I didn’t know what had happened with me.
When I got back my senses after few hours, I was in my bedroom. I found both Amrita and Pranjal sitting by me.
I felt sorry for Amrita and Pranjal.
They heaved a sigh of relief while seeing me back to my normal condition.
‘I am so sorry, Amrita, Pranjal,’ I said feebly.
‘It’s okay, ma’am,’ they said.
‘How do you feel now, ma’am?’ Amrita and Pranjal asked.
‘I’m feeling better, now,’ I said. ‘Thanks Amrita. Thanks Pranjal.’
After couple of days ……
Amrita and Pranjal visited again in my house. The doctor advised me to take bed rest for few days.
‘Ma’am,’ Amrita said, hesitated. ‘If you don’t mind, can we ask you something?’
‘Yes Amrita,’ I said. ‘Of course, you can ask me anything you want.’
‘What happened to you, ma’am the day before yesterday?’ Amrita asked with low and concerned voice.
‘Any problem with our wedding, ma’am,’ Pranjal asked. His voice also sounded serious.
‘No, no, Amrita, No, no, Pranjal,’ I said, choking. ‘I-I am happy for your wedding. In fact, in fact……’
I could not complete my sentence.
I could not control my floodgate of emotions. My voice broke. And I started wailing.
Jyoti didi’s wedding ceremony was preparing with all the rituals, customs and traditions.
The whole atmosphere of our house was full of joy, happiness and electrifying. There were bursting of crackers; the night sky was lightening with thousands of stars and the trumpeting band of music all around.
All excited and jolly.
However, I might be the only soul who was not happy.
Why only girl leaves her house after getting married? Why not she stays with her parents forever?
This question always struck in my mind more than hundreds of times.
Alas! I did never have its answer.
I’ll never leave my parent’s house after my marriage. I’ll stay as long as I could. I said to myself.
As I was lost in my wandering thoughts, somebody disrupted me instantly.
‘Awchach, Ahh……’ I shrieked.
Somebody collided with me. I got hurt on my forehead.
For a microsecond, I saw the twinkling stars in front of my eyes. I could not blink my eyes.
I looked around to find out the culprit who dared to commit such a blunder after getting back my senses.
I saw Raj. He was running and chasing the boys and girls inside the marriage pandal.
Raj was younger brother of my newly married brother-in-law.
‘He is the real culprit,’ I murmured, angrily. ‘And nobody could dare to act like this.’
Even hurting me he didn’t ask me for any apologize. How dared he is? I was fuming.
From the day when Jyoti didi’s marriage fixed with his brother, this mischievous Raj disturbed me, teased me and irritated me again and again. I grumbled.
‘In every occasion he comes with his parents, brother and relatives.’
‘I hated this wicked devil,’ I said.
I gnawed my teeth and held my fist.
Today, I’ll chase and teach him a good lesson. I thought.
‘Tit for tat!’ I affirmed.
I ran behind Raj and followed him in and out looking for an opportunity for a while.
As I got an opportunity, I came in full action.
I pushed Raj as much as I gained force.
‘Ahhhhhhhhhh, Ah…,’ Raj shrieked.
He fell on the ground. He got hurt. His elbows and knees got bruise.
‘Ahh…. You didn’t notice me, Su.’ Raj shouted, moaning.
‘Now how did you feel, huh?’ I asked triumphantly.
‘You, Su?’ Raj said, angrily. ‘You intentionally did nah?’
Raj raised my anger while calling me, ‘Su’.
‘My name is not Su,’ I retorted. ‘My name is Suman.’
‘Okay, okay, I know,’ Raj said, rubbing his bruised elbows and knees.
You GundaRaj. I said in my mind.
‘Okay, okay, now you apologize me.’
‘Because you hurt me.’
‘You’ve no respect for your guest?’
‘You’re not our guest,’ I said and ran.
Raj also followed me.
However, he could not chase me. He stuck with the people dancing in the marriage pandal.
He fell down shouting aloud.
‘Result of bad deeds. Jaisi karni wasi bharni….’
‘I’ll show you, Su.’ Raj gazed me revengeful look.
‘Eww, Eww….’ I stuck out my tongue and disappeared from the scene.
Finally, the moment of Jyoti didi’s farewell arrived.
Jyoti didi got hysterical. She wept. My mother wept. And the rest of our women folks started shedding their tears. At the beginning of the marriage ceremony, everybody was happy, jolly, and excited. There was not a single drop of tears in their eyes, and then suddenly when the final moment arrived everybody opened their floodgates of tears.
I could not control my emotions.
‘Didiiii….,’ I said, weeping. ‘I can’t live without you.’
I felt that my heart would burst out very soon and my tears would never dry up.
I hugged Jyoti didi tightly. I kissed Jyoti didi and held her hands. She kissed me back and hugged me.
Jyoti didi got inside the wedding car and Raj accompanied her.
Raj smiled. And I shed tears.
I had no other option rather than feeling jealous of him. It was my misfortune that I could not do anything.
I stayed helpless, seeing the leaving wedding car of Jyoti didi.
Jyoti didi left our house, leaving us forever to begin her new life in the new world.
The whole night I remembered Jyoti didi and wept bitterly.
Raj accompanied Jyoti didi whenever she visited in our house.
This rascal, Raj always stayed by didi. I felt jealous and angry.
Jyoti didi is my sister not his sister. She is only his sister-in-law. That’s all.
Every time Raj visited in our house, he disturbed me and irritated me.
He did the stuffs that I hated the most. He intentionally collided with me. And he never asked me any apologize.
He always tried to pull my legs. He pranked with me. He cracked jokes and turned me laughingstock in front of everybody.
Someday, I’ll give him a hard slap on his both cheeks. I said to myself.
However, I could not do anything, because he was the younger brother of Jiju.
I just remained helpless, watching his mischief.
In my mind, every day I made plan to teach him.
One day I’ll slap him in front of everybody so hard that his entire jaws of teeth would uproot, and he ever remains toothless.
And he becomes stammer. He starts repeating the same word a hundred of times. Aaa….Aaa…. While making plan I laughed alone.
The behaviors of Raj embarrassed me a lot. My brain gone out of control and I got angry.
Again, I had no alternatives rather than stood silent and stretching my head.
If I can become a boy, I’ll teach him a good lesson. He will never dare to do any such stuff in his entire life. He will always remember me. I thought.
Raj mimicry every act I did. He showed my acts in front of everybody when gathered.
‘Do you know what Su has done today? Do you know what Su showed yesterday?’ And blah and blah.
Everybody started laughing with his mimicry and I was his scapegoat of his comedy drama.
‘Mad, crack, half- brain….’ I murmured, getting angry.
Whenever Raj got an opportunity, he pulled my legs.
He never missed any shots to make me irritate.
‘What is this, Su?’ Raj asked me, touching my hair. ‘Dog’s tail or horse’s tail?’ He mocked me.
‘Don’t touch my hair.’ I said with rage.
I loved my hairstyle very much and if somebody makes fun of it, nobody could stop me.
Raj pulled my hairs, and he ran.
‘You RASCAL,’ I yelled. ‘You’ve to pay for this.’
I chased him.
He ran so fast, that I could not catch him.
I chased Raj the whole day but I could not catch him.
Then to take revenge against him, I kept his favorite red T-shirt secretly and later I buried it in the backward.
The next day Raj searched his red T-shirt die heart, but he didn’t find it.
‘Do you get my red T-shirt, aunty?’
‘Do you get my red T-shirt, uncle?’
Raj asked every member of our house, desperately, but nobody helped him to find his lost red T-shirt.
I enjoyed on his helplessness.
Raj was upset the whole day. He didn’t smile. He didn’t talk. Even he didn’t eat anything.
Unfortunately, nobody found his favorite red T-shirt.
Poor lad! I thought delighted.
Now how is the feeling, huh?
When I kept short hairstyle, Raj started teasing me again.
‘Hey, Hey ….Su is a boy…….Su is a boy.’
The more I got embarrassed the more he teased me.
Immediately, I changed my hairstyle. And I kept long hairstyle.
Again, Raj had a problem.
‘Wow Su, you’re not a girl.’
‘Shut up!’ I said, angrily.
‘I swear you’re looking exactly like our neighborhood, Mrs. Sharma aunty. She has the same long hairstyle like you.’
‘What’s your problem, you GundaRaj? Whether I keep long hairstyle or short, it’s my own choice.’
‘Oho, Su got angry.’
‘You mind your business.’
‘Yeah, I’m doing my business.’
Then what, I chased him, and he ran. Our dogs-cats fights continued, non-stop.
Whenever I played with my friends, Raj also joined us.
‘Here comes, GundaRaj to disturbed me.’ I murmured.
‘Guys, don’t allow him to play with us,’ I instructed my friends.
Before Raj gave his pleasantries to my friends, I stopped him.
‘You’re not allowed to play with us,’ I said, roughly.
‘Why?’ Raj asked.
‘Outsider is not allowed.’
Raj looked towards my friends.
‘Am I an outsider? Am I not your friend? What do you say guys?’
Raj asked my friends emotionally. He spent the black magic of his words on them.
All my friends remained silent.
Now? What do you do, you rascal? I thought gleefully.
However, something different thing happened.
‘No, you’re not outsider. You’re our friend.’ One of my friends said looking at me strangely.
Then all followed the same chorus.
‘What?’ I shouted.
I was shocked.
‘I hate you all.’
What he thinks of himself?
I got very angry.
They all played and I sat alone looking at them playing.
GundaRaj has come once again in our house. I felt embarrassed.
Whenever Raj came in our house, I knew my life would become hell.
‘Didi you can’t visit alone?’ I complained Jyoti didi. ‘Why did you bring GundaRaj?’
‘No, no, Suman,’ Jyoti didi said. ‘Don’t speak like this.’ She tried to console me.
‘He is such a bad boy. I hate him.’
‘No, Suman. Raj is your Jiju’s younger brother.’
‘No, didi, if you visit next time you come alone. Don’t bring this rascal.’
‘Look Suman, you’re my sister like Raj is your Jiju’s brother and now he is also my brother. Don’t speak like this. You’re my good sister.’
‘No, didi, you’re only my sister. Not his.’
‘Okay, okay, do you have any problem with Raj, huh?’
Jyoti didi asked me lovingly.
‘Yes, I’ve thousands of complaints about him.’
‘Okay, you tell me. I’ll talk to Raj. You don’t worry.’
Then what, I got the full license.
I told everything about Raj and even I made some false stories.
I was happy and excited.
Yes, I got success to turn didi against this rascal. I said in my mind.
From where, Raj came, and he intervened us that we didn’t know.
‘Nabo,’ Raj said. ‘I’m looking for you every nook and corner of the house and you’re sitting and talking with Su.’
I winked and turned away from him.
‘This rascal interfere everybody.’ I grumbled.
‘No.’ Jyoti didi said.
‘So, nabo,’ Raj said. ‘What are you gossiping you didn’t hear my calls, huh?’
‘I’m angry with you, Raj?’ Jyoti didi said.
I was overjoyed.
Yes, yes, now didi will teach this rascal. I thought.
‘What nabo?’ Raj asked getting quizzical look.
‘Why you always teased and embarrassed my little sister, huh?’
‘Ohoo, so,’ Raj said, humorously. ‘Su has complained you against me?’
‘Don’t call me Su,’ I said, angrily.
‘Okay, okay,’ Raj said. ‘I am sooooo sorry Su.’
‘Raj, you again teased Suman?’
‘Sorry nabo,’ Raj said, acting as holding his ears. ‘I can’t.’ He stuck out his dirty tongue.
‘Sorry, Su,’ Raj said, and he disappeared.
He joined with my friends.
‘Jiju, Raj always teased me,’ I complained Jiju. ‘I hate him. He is very bad boy.’
‘Okay, I’ll scold him today,’ Jiju said, assuring me. ‘You don’t worry, Suman.’
I felt happy.
Jyoti didi, Jiju and I enjoyed light moment for a while.
‘What do you say if we plan for a picnic tomorrow?’ Jiju asked Jyoti didi.
‘O, it’s a great idea,’ Jyoti didi said.
‘What do you say, Suman?’ Jiju asked me.
‘Awesome idea, Jiju,’ I said.
I was happy and excited.
‘Jiju don’t take Raj,’ I said in dejected tone.
‘Okay, as you wish Suman,’ Jiju said. ‘It’ll be a good lesson for him.’
‘Yes, yes,’ I said, thrilled.
Again, Raj appeared in the middle and distracted us.
He is like an intruder. He poked his nose everywhere. What a shameless creature! I said in my mind.
‘Aha, Aha, hmm, hmm….’ Raj said, suspiciously. ‘Picnic, Picnic….you people planned a picnic, huh? I’ll tell everybody.’
‘Ai, Ai, Raj…,’ Jiju said, trying to stop Raj. ‘Don’t tell anybody. We’re just discussing.’
However, Raj was Raj. He was clever as well as naughty. Nobody could predict about him what he would do the next moment.
He spoiled everything.
We had to cancel our threesome picnic. And the entire family member joined with us.
I was very angry.
‘I’ll not go if this rascal accompany with us,’ I said.
Jyoti didi, Jiju and my family members consoled me a lot.
‘Please, Suman,’ Jyoti didi and Jiju pleaded me.
At last, I got ready for picnic.
Raj was happy and excite.
He enjoyed a lot while spoiled our threesome picnic. I thought.
‘Rascal!’ I said, getting furious.
Raj spent time with my parents and other members of our family more than I spent.
‘Papa, may I help you,’ Raj said to my father.
He always came forward himself.
‘Yes, beta, please pass me that stuff,’ my father said.
Raj ran and immediately done the job.
He obeyed like an obedient son.
‘Raj, beta, you’re such an obedient boy that I’ve never seen like you,’ my father praised him.
Raj jumped with joy.
‘Thank you papa… Thank you papa. It’s my nature to help everybody,’ Raj said proudly, swelling up his chest.
He touched my father’s feet.
‘God bless you, beta!’ My father blessed him.
‘Rascal! Acting as he is an obedient boy,’ I mumbled, feeling boiling inside.
The same manner he displayed with my mother as well.
My mother also loved him.
And the rest of our family member loved him like a doting son.
He became a favorite of everybody.
Even my closed friends praised Raj for his smartness and intelligent.
‘Wow!’ Rupali said, impressed. ‘Suman, your Jiju’s younger brother, Raj is so smart and intelligent. I liked him so much.’
‘What did you say?’ I asked, gazing her angry look. ‘Say once again.’ I demanded.
‘N-No, nothing,’ Rupali stammered.
‘If you like him and start his praises and appreciations in front of me, then right from now you’re no more my best friend,’ I said, firmly.
‘Our friendship is over from today.’ I gave my final word.
‘Oho, Suman, why are you saying like this? You’re my best buddy. I am just kidding?’
‘No, you can’t praise him and no appreciation about that rascal.’
‘Okay, I’m sooooo sorry.’
‘Rup, are you my best friend or are you best friend of that bloody rascal?’
‘No doubt, obviously yours.’
‘Then, stop talking with him, and stop looking him, right? And tell the others.’
‘Okay.’ Rupali replied with heavy tone.
Now, I’ll see who will stay with him? I thought.
However, whenever Raj came everything happened upside down. All my friends joined him leaving me alone. They all forgot my words. And they followed him immediately.
Whenever this rascal comes, they follow him. Why? I asked myself.
Sometimes Raj came in our house every week in a month and disrupted my peaceful life.
I am suffocating. I’ll die. I said to myself sometime.
I can’t see this rascal anymore. I yelled.
The same scene happened between us whenever I visited in Jiju’s house.
‘So, at last Maharani has stepped in our house,’ Raj started taunting me.
‘It’s my didi and Jiju’s house,’ I shot back.
‘Welcome, welcome. Welcome, Maharani Su Devi.’
Raj ridiculed me and laughed.
I gazed him like an angry tigress.
I wanted to react.
However, Jyoti didi came forward and stopped our world war.
‘Raj, No!’ Jyoti didi warned.
Raj went outside.
Oh! Thank God, the rascal is gone. I sighed.
I had completed my class tenth.
On the day of my class tenth Board result, Raj also present in our house.
‘Oho Su, you only managed to score 60% marks,’ Raj said, mocking me.
I didn’t reply anything.
‘Oh how poor! How disappointed! I didn’t expect from you, Su.’
Raj expressed, as he was upset with my percentage.
‘And why not, only wondering here and there; hang out with boys and playing games like little kids. Never concentrate in studies.’
Raj delivered his long lectures like an adult.
I could not hear anything about my humiliation in front of my family members. I was out of patience.
I got angry.
‘IT’S ENOUGH! You’ve crossed the limit. You just stop your disgusting lectures.’
In the middle of the entire family, I reacted rudely.
Raj became stunned silent.
‘Did you ever witness me hang out with boys and wondering here and there, huh?’
He was shocked.
He didn’t expect that I would retort him in such a manner.
‘SUMAN, what are you saying, huh? What is this manner?’ My mother scolded me.
‘Okay, okay,’ Raj said. ‘Su, I-I am just kidding. I-I am so sorry.’ Raj apologized. His voice was shaking.
I wept and ran into my bedroom.
I was emotionally hurt.
I was expecting distinction or letter marks in my subjects, but I didn’t get any of my subjects.
I had toiled hard, burning mid-night oil for every subject day and night.
My friends got distinctions and letters marks in their subjects. And I just managed sixty percent marks only.
I could not believe my own results.
Raj also followed me and got inside my bedroom.
I was weeping in my bedroom, collapsed in my bed and holding a pillow as my rescue.
‘I am so-so sorry, Su,’ Raj apologized me once again. ‘I shouldn’t speak like this.’
For the first time Raj apologized to me.
‘How dared you step inside my bedroom?’ I said angrily.
‘I am extremely sorry, Su,’ Raj apologized again.
‘Leave me alone.’
‘I said sorry, Su.’
‘I don’t want to talk with you. I hate you. You never talk with me again.’
‘GET OUT FROM MY BEDROOM,’ I screamed with the top of my voice.
‘Okay, okay,’ Raj said coldly. ‘I am leaving.’
From that day onward, Raj didn’t visit in our house again.
Later I realized what I had behaved with Raj.