Sushant was in a hurry. In less than 2 days his life was about to change forever. He wasn’t completely ready for this. But he knew he would never be. He had always believed that arranged marriage was not his thing. How foolish can people be! Attack the girl’s house with an army of relatives, bond over stupid jokes, eat samosas, let the guy and girl talk for 5 minutes (this is optional!), match star, sun and moon signs, drink tea and sentence the guy and girl for a lifetime of togetherness! Madness! He was going to find a girl, fall head over heels for her and do all that stuff which happens in a Shah Rukh Khan movie.
Well, soon his myth was about to be broken. A few months ago, his fate was decided over a plate of samosas and a hot cup of tea. He would have preferred vodka! That was until he saw Deepika. She was very pretty and had a beautiful smile. And luckily he got his 5 minutes with her. He found her extremely sweet to talk to. Their thoughts and interests were similar and their ideologies matched. Sushant was pleasantly surprised and surprisingly confused when his mom confirmed his silence as a “yes” and the rest is history: more samosas! In the next few months, Sushant and Deepika chatted a lot. Deepika was everything that Sushant wanted his girl to be: smart, beautiful, intelligent, affectionate! But she was not exactly fun. She was not Smriti!
Sushant had met Smriti in a guitar class. When Sushant had told her that he was surprised to see her as he did not know many girls who play guitar, she said that she was there because she had a crush on the instructor. Two months later, Sushant could not hide his embarrassment when he realized that it was her dad. But by then they had become very good friends and slowly he was falling for her. They used to spend hours together and every day with her would leave him wanting for more. She took him to parts of
which he did not know even existed. They would go have tea at a shady
restaurant, eat ice-cream in the middle of the night, take the bus without a
clue of where to go, wait for the rain and go out on his bike! It was so
uncharacteristic of Sushant who wore a rain coat in anticipation of the rain
and also had his umbrella handy, just in case! Calcutta
She showed him a new life and he framed every moment of it. It was beautiful with her. She was the most fun loving person he had known. But the worlds they wanted to inhabit were totally different. He wanted everthing to be certain in their lives while she wanted to explore the world. She wanted to go to Europe to learn Spanish and French, do travel writing in
then come back and do theatre in . Sushant just wanted to get
married and start a family. And for that he wanted Smriti to give up the one
thing he loved in her the most. Smriti was too free spirited to comply! She
left his life more empty than it ever was. Work became his pain killer as he
spent sleepless nights cranking up lines of code for the new start up he and
his friends had started. The success at work slowly filled in the vacuum she
had left behind and helped him come out of the world she had created for
Sushant was terribly late for his own marriage. Whose idea was it to have the wedding in a god forsaken village! Sushant had never heard of Bemisaalpur before. So he thought that it was a joke when Deepika’s father had mentioned about having the wedding there. A business meeting with a very important client in
had ensured that he could only be there just a day before his wedding. He
rented a car at Bangalore
airport and sped it as fast as he could. “Deepika is going to kill me”, he
thought. He stopped on his way at a tea stall to find out driving directions.
The tea was out of the world. It was so stimulating. “Did he add cocaine”, he
He switched on the radio. DJ Arif was enchanting a girl who had called in just to be charmed by his sweet voice. He also played a song for her. It was Smriti’s favorite channel. His thoughts hit the rewind button again to one of her innumerous pranks which made him fall for her. It was their “virtual radio date”. Both of them were driving home when Smriti made him listen to “Radio Masti”. Then she called up D J Arif and requested their favorite song and dedicated it to “Mr.Dumbo” as she called him. He could not get Smriti out of his mind. There was still a part inside him that longed for her. He had thought of calling her many times but had decided against it. “What is the point”, he thought!
He was lost in his thoughts when he saw a woman right in the middle of the road. He hit the brakes hard to avoid running her over. He got out and yelled at her. She asked him if she could drop her at her house. It was getting dark and he did not want to leave her there. He agreed and they were on their way. She was silent throughout. He asked her a few questions and got nothing but silence. After 5 minutes suddenly she asked him to stop. She got out and started walking. It was in the middle of nowhere. Sushant saw the forest on his right and a graveyard on his left. The woman silently walked into the graveyard. He followed her for a few steps but was terrified when he entered the graveyard. She was not to be seen anymore. Dumbstruck he returned to the car. “That was so creepy”, he thought. He wanted to talk to someone to lighten himself. He called Deepika. She didn’t answer!
He badly needed a drink after that grave episode. The road was so deserted that there was nothing but dense forests on either side. “Where the hell am I”, wondered Sushant. “Play some damn song man!”, a voice screamed . Sushant hit the brakes in sheer panic. “Why on earth did you stop the car, you idiot?”, a man with a long beard and a mole on his cheek popped up from the back seat. Sushant pinched himself. “What the hell?”, he thought. “Drive the car as fast as you can. I will get down in the next town”, the man threatened. Yeah.. right.. I haven’t seen a single shop for the past 3 hours! He wants to go to a town.” Sushant knew he didn’t have much of chance against a knife. So he cursed his luck and hit the gas again. “Play some good music man. Hit Radio Masti! My favorite!”, the man groaned. “Sure! You want me to call DJ Arif for you”, yelled Sushant.
Radio Masti had brought out the musician inside the man as he was singing along though completely out of tune. Sushant was saying his prayers imploring God that he needed no more adventures tonight. His prayer was interrupted by a jeep that came out of nowhere from the jungle and stopped Sushant’s car. A police officer stepped out with a couple of constables. “Ahaa.. Banwari… gotyaa… you seem to have a new accomplice here”, the policeman was very pleased by his late night catch. Sushant had not dreamt of visiting a police station in his life. But today had been all about strange people and places! Banwari seemed to be happy to be back to his home. Sushant was shit scared. The run up to his wedding was not coming along so well!
“Inspector Sir. I am not his accomplice. I am getting married day after tomorrow. I have to be in Bemisalpur tomorrow. Please let me go!”, he pleaded. “My boy. You can’t get away so easily. If you are in a hurry to get married, ask your fiancé to come here. Ha ha ha.. Who are you getting married to, by the way?”. The policeman was settling down with his tea. “I am getting married to Mr.Bhushan Haldar’s daughter, Deepika.”, stuttered Sushant. “Hmm.. Bhushan. I have heard of him. His father was the sarpanch of Bemisaalpur. But why should I believe you?”. The policeman was having a ball. At that very moment a man came rushing in. “Sir. Please help me. Please. My wife is missing from today morning. Here is her photo. Please find her Sir”, the man was crying. Sushant’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the photo. It was the same lady who had disappeared into the graveyard. Sushant’s head was spinning. “What is this place?”, he shuddered. He realized that he had to get out of here before he is involved into this case as well! The policeman calmed the other guy and asked him to provide a statement to the constable.
Sushant rose with a start. “I can prove it Sir. Can I make a call to Bhushan uncle?”, he pleaded. The policeman nodded. Sushant dialed the number in a mad frenzy. The phone rang and rang. Sushant was in full panic mode. He called Deepika. No answer. The policeman was growing suspicious. Finally Sushant’s brain cells had an aha moment. He pulled out his bag and took out the wedding card and the engagement album. The policeman was convinced and offered him a reluctant apology. Sushant made a dash to his car. He had to get out of this place. He called Deepika again. No answer. “This is so weird!”, he wondered.
He drove as fast as he could. After 3 hours he saw a small village and stopped at a tea stall. The tea was refreshing. His heart was still racing. “What a day it has been”, he wondered. The good news was that he was just 2 hours away now. “Excuse me Sir”, a man touched his shoulder. “Could you please give me a lift…”, the young man started when Sushant cut him short. “No. I am not giving any lift. I am in a hurry.”, Sushant could not hide his panic. “I am sorry to bother you Sir. But I got stuck here. You can see my car there. I got a flat tire. I have to go to a wedding in Bemisaalpur. Please help me Sir.”, the young man sounded sincere. “Whose wedding are you going to?”, inquired Sushant. “I am going to my ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Her name is Deepika. By the way, I am Naresh. Nice to meet you.” Sushant wanted to say that it was not so nice to meet him. But offered him the lift instead. “This is the last nail in the coffin. She never told me she had an ex”, Sushant was fuming.
Together (ex and current) they started the final stretch. Sushant turned to his only solace: Radio Masti. Arif had taken leave and Angela was hosting her show now. She was about to play a song when she was interrupted by another anchor who had a flash announcement. “Just hours ago, there has been a grave incident in the Haldar bungalow in Bemisaalpur.” Sushant and Naresh looked at each other. “Altaf, the famous drug dealer in the area has been arrested in the Haldar premise by police officials. He had earlier stormed into the house with a gun and …”, the radio went dead. Sushant froze. He could piece it together now. That was why neither Mr.Bhushan nor Deepika were picking up the phone. What had happened to all of them? What did Altaf do? A thousand questions blazed through his mind. “Altaf had a long lasting enmity with the Haldar household”, noted Naresh. “Just get there as fast as you can. I hope nothing untoward has happened.” Sushant had lost all hope. The whole world was coming apart for him!
After a mad dash they reached the bungalow. Sushant ran out of the car with Naresh closely behind him. 3 girls who seemed to be Deepika’s friends were sitting outside wiping their tears. “What happened? Somebody please tell me!”, Sushant pleaded. “That thug Altaf. He came in.. he came in.. he was looking for Bhushan uncle.. Deepika came rushing outside.. and.. and he killed Deepika.”, she was sobbing. Sushant went pale. His heart was about to burst. He ran inside. He saw Deepika on the floor, drenched in blood. Sushant went down on his knees. He buried his head to the ground and burst into tears. The world had ended for him.
“Hey.. Mr. Dumbo!” Sushant couldn’t believe his ears. He looked up to see Deepika smiling. He rubbed his eyes hard. She hugged him tight and said: “Welcome home, my dear would be hubby!” Sushant was furious. “What on earth is happening here? What sick game was that? Did you know what a bad day I have had?” He was bamboozled. “Well. Things went a little overboard, I have to say that. But wasn’t it fun? Didn’t you have the thrill of your life. This was a small plan me and my friends had made to make your drive down here a little interesting!”, giggled Deepika. “Wait a minute. My drive down here! What do you mean?”, exclaimed Sushant. “Err.. Put the pieces together, Smarty-Pants”, Sushant saw the grave-yard girl as she joined Deepika. “So your husband is also on the way to attend the wedding, I guess!” Sushant tried to get his act together. “Smart boy, eh. Not bad!”, the good old policeman made his way into the house. Sushant tried not to act surprised. “Welcome uncle. Sushant, this is Raghuvansh uncle, our family friend!”, Deepika helped with the formal introduction. “Pleasure is mine uncle! Where is Mr.Banwari?” “Oh.. that was my son, Bansi. He will come directly to the wedding hall!”, Raghuvansh sounded very pleased.
“Sushant. If we had gone a little overboard we are sorry. Me and my friends had a pact that we would do something of this sort for my wedding. But I had decided against it when I met you. But I heard from your mom that you were very fun loving until Smriti left you. So I thought that it was time you lived your life a little more freely and in the moment. I hope you had a blast! Hurry up. Everyone is waiting for us in the wedding hall. Oh by the way.. please do me a favor. Our parents do not know about this. I would prefer if it stays that way!”, Deepika was firing away non stop. At that moment Sushant found her so irresistible. “I thought she was a flower pot. She has turned out to be a bottle rocket”, he wondered.
“One last question. How did you manage that news in Radio Masti?”, Sushant was eager to know that last detail. “hee hee.. that was really simple. It wasn’t Radio Masti. My friend works at the local radio station. That is the only station you get here. And why will they flash a small news from Bemisaalpur in Radio Masti. I thought you would figure that out Dumbo!”, Deepika made Sushant look stupid again. Clearly it was not his day. “Okay.. I am getting ready. See you again in 10 minutes. Sorry Naresh.. had forgotten about you in this whole confusion. Am so glad you could make it!”, Deepika was off in a flash.
Sushant took a minute to soak everything in. He went to Naresh now. “Okay.. good job guys. Brilliant planning. I must have guessed this. So you are not his ex-boyfriend right. Btw.. how did you guess that I will stop at the tea shop? What if I had not? Was the tea shop owner also involved here?”, Sushant was still racking his brain hard. “Relax chief. I am indeed her ex-boyfriend. I don’t have anything to do with this. Now go get married to her. Otherwise you will regret it”, chucked Naresh.
Deepika came down all dressed up. She was looking gorgeous. “Sorry Sushant. I thought you would like it. I am sorry if you didn’t enjoy that prank. I hope that doesn’t change your decision to marry me!”, she winked. Sushant thought about Naresh. He responded in a flash: “No not at all. Last night was so much fun. I haven’t had such a blast in a long long time. I love you dear”. And this time he meant it!
- A short story by Raj.