Gautam had worn his sherwani. He hated all this but he had no choice…like most of the things in his life. He adjusted the traditional turban. He saw himself in the mirror in his room. The light from the approaching dusk had cast shadows upon his silhouette in the mirror. As always he saw the beast glaring at him. She had called him a monster… his Preeti… the love of his life. No…he was nothing like the blue eyed monster who had wanted to violate her totally and kill her. How could he convince her otherwise? Would it make any difference to her?
One thing was for sure she wasn’t leaving for Mumbai anytime today. He had seen to it. Maasa’s doctor just needed the extra income and he was in. Of course the old lady was suffering from the dreaded disease and had firmly refused treatment. Her health was hanging on tender hooks. But she wasn’t dying as such. That was a little lie which got the wedding prepended. It wasn’t difficult to convince Rewa. She couldn’t wait to get out of that hell hole called Sengar household. He himself felt suffocated there. They were opportunists…the entire family especially the men.
But he worried about Preeti. She tried to show she was strong but he knew she was breaking down from within. There was a knock at his door and Narmada stepped in. His sister was beautiful dressed in all the finery. His mentor, the now dead bastard had bequeathed her everything and she had a royal wedding to a wonderful man who took her away from the darkness her overambitious parents had built around here. But he loved her. Though she wasn’t related by blood, she understood him. She had known about her monster brother all along. One day when she was barely ten she had come crying to him. The monster…the bastard had tried to lay his hands on her. That day he had punched him so hard that he had broken two of his teeth. He had warned the monster to stay away from the sister. Since then she had been very close to him.
She stood before him folding her hands. She had a frown on her beautiful oval face.
“Why are you doing this bhai?”
“What am I doing Nammu?” he called her with her pet name knowing how much she liked to hear it.
“Bhai do you remember when maa was trying to get me married off to some widower for her ambitious project? And I was in love with Gaurang? You told me something very important.”
Gautam looked away. She held his hands and said, “Bhai you had told me not to dwell in the past and move on. At the same time you had said not to give up on love but fight for it, isn’t it?” He nodded.
“Then why are you doing this Bhai? I can see how much you are in love with Preeti.”
He gave her a shocked look.
“Don’t look at me like that bhai. Your chemistry in the room is hot enough to burn everyone around. You both have eyes only for each other… Bhai don’t do this to both of you… I like Preeti. She is good for you. Whenever you called me last few days before you came here you were so calm…it was because of her isn’t it?”
He walked to the window hand on his hips looking outside. Narmada came besides him and stared outside. “She is the same girl bhai?”
“ Is Preeti the same girl from that place, whom you rescued?”
He nodded slightly.
“Does she know this bhai?”
He shrugged. “I… I think she does.”
“Then go tell her bhai…”
“…she deserves someone better…”
“Bhai, I think you deserve some happiness in your life…. For once…” She held his hand and pulled him to face her. “…for once bhai, just think of yourself instead of all of us…Go and tell Preeti… call off this marriage…”
“…NO.” He jerked his hand away. “This marriage shall take place today. Nammu go out and let me get ready.”
Narmada wiped her eyes and shook her head as she left the room.
Gautam was firm in his decision today. Romila Devi was on the seventh heaven. She had started to doubt his agreement to go ahead with the impending nuptials. She had forever shielded the bitterness in her heart. He didn’t blame her for it. He would have been dead somewhere if she hadn’t taken him up into her household. It didn’t matter that she never held him close when he feared the dark at night, it didn’t matter she slapped him around if he didn’t cooperate with the household work, it didn’t matter that she did him a favour sending him to school…it didn’t matter that she had trained him to take up the blame for her monster son on himself every time the mentor came to visit them. It didn’t matter that she derived pleasure watching the bastard mentor use his belt on a young 13 year old foster son. Nothing mattered then…nothing mattered now. Except she held a very important card in her hand…her trump card to make him bend to her whims. She only wanted Gagorn. He had to give her this last wish of hers and then he was done. Done… with the baggage of guilt and debt. He would be free… finally to lead his life the way he wanted. To get that card from her… it was very important that he see this to the end. Coming to think of it he realised with a snide smile, he wasn’t any different from a bonded labourer. Except… he was bonded by his morals and guilt.
He adjusted his clothes and took a deep breath. He had to go through with this today. He didn’t believe in God but if there existed an Almighty then he hoped He would finally decide to shower some blessings on him today…
He walked down the stairs into the foyer of his bungalow. It was a masterpiece on the outskirts of Bhivadi. He lived alone here. Romila Devi liked to be closer to her daughter in Jaisalmer. He looked up at the rooms on the right. He smiled remembering the day he had got Preeti and Rewa here. Seemed like ages ago… He fisted his hand and hit his chest as if it would calm down his racing heart.
He saw the time. He still had fifteen minutes to go before their flower studded vehicle arrived. He just knew what he had to do. He looked around and seeing no one he rushed towards the basement of his bungalow. Only he had the biometric access. And since it’s entrance was under the staircase and well concealed no one knew about it. He quickly opened the door and went inside the dark little passage closing the door auto locking himself behind him. He came face to face with the big red door…
He put in the key which was with him all the time and opened the lock. He pushed the door open and stepped into his world.
Gautam looked around the red room very identical to the one in Mumbai. In fact he had commissioned this one much before. He had always visualised Preeti here. In fact even that day when she was here he wanted to bring her down here…to his domain…. where he was on his own away from everything. He had once experienced that in his home in Mumbai. His joy had known no bounds when Preeti herself had shown interest in his way of life. There was so much he wanted to teach her, try out with her… he sighed as he ran his hand over the mattress. He took out the Sherwani and the salwar and hung them on the rack on the hangers. He had already gotten rid of the turban as he had entered. Next his vest was out followed by his boxers. Arranging them neatly he went towards the rexin mattress that was propped up and dropped it on the bed. He then went to the small refrigerator and removed the ice packs and spread them on the mattress. He went to the closet and opened one of the cupboards. There were three whips all of different sizes and types. He picked the heaviest of them. He opened the drawer and took out the tiny clamps… about six of them. He set the phone alarm for five minutes. He placed the whip on a stand nearby and pinched his skin and put on the clamps. By the time he finished with all six he was breathing heavily and eyes watering with jaw clenched tightly as the clamps dug into his skin. He lifted the whip and started to flog himself. With every hit the clamps kept pressing on his skin and the blue eyed monster’s face sprang before his eyes….The last time he had seen him in his mentor’s house…under the shower. He screamed aloud, “YOU WERE ALWAYS A MONSTER… you know that? Now, you won’t exist at all…In a matter of few months your entire identity will be gone. The world will know about your deeds…. Your mother too will know the entire truth you bastard… rot in hell MONSTER… rot in hell VIKRAM SINGH….” The alarm rang just then. He got out of his trance and silenced it. He brushed his tears away as he removed the clamps and placed them in their place and also the whip. He then lay on his stomach on the ice packs spread on the bed. As the cold seeped through his bruises numbing his pain a strange calm started descending within.
He would make things right. Today was an exam… and he always aced his exams. He knew it in his gut. And his intuitions were never wrong….
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