Uma made a concious effort to breathe slowly and deeply as he looked through the medicine cabinet. ” Losing precious time by frantically searching won’t help.” he told himself. Finally his hand rested on the bottles he was searching for. He carefully took them off the shelf and set them on his table. He then briskly walked over to another shelf full of empty vials. Picking one up randomly, he walked back to his table and started mixing the two medicines to form the concoction he needed. Within ten minutes, armed with the object he had come downstairs for, he walked swiftly back upstairs. He couldn’t risk running for the fear of waking up someone. Last thing he needed right now was commotion and fuss. Once inside his room he softly closed the door behind him and walked over to her still limp body. In the quiet of the late evening, he could hear her extremely soft breathing, or at least he thought so. Her innocent face seemed relaxed for a change and with an unfamiliar pang he realized that this was the first time he had seen her so relaxed. That meant she had constantly been stressed, tensed, cautious, or on her guard ever since he had seen her. With his train of thought still speeding in his mind he sat on the bed on her left hand side. Half lying down beside her he slid his left hand under her neck and gently lifted her. He lifted his left hand that held the vial of medicine and removed the lid with a push from the pad of his thumb. His eyes never leaving sight of her face, he gently brought the vial to her now dry lips and started to pour the bitter medicine in her mouth. The medicine just flowed away from the left side of her mouth. Exasperated, he slid his hand back out from under her neck, lay her head back on the pillow, found the lid of the vial, closed it and set it back on the pillow. Then, raising his left hand to her face he pinched her nostrils between his thumb and index finger as his right hand pressed gently on both sides of her mouth to open them slightly. One, two, three , four, five… fifteen. Uma counted tensely thinking of the next step he was going to have to do if she did not come- to on her own. Still pressing her nostrils he started to lower his face towards hers , all the while counting. His face was barely a centimeter from hers when she suddenly gasped and drew in a deep breath. Her body jerked up involuntarily resulting in her lips brushing his. Uma pulled back immediately, let go of her nostrils, and slid his left hand back under her neck to lift it slightly. He picked up the vial again and opened it with a flick of his thumb. Her eyes were barely open now and she looked like she had been heavily drugged. Without any delay, he poured the medicine in her mouth one more time. The taste of bitter medicine made her eyes open up wider but before she could protest, the liquid had gone down her throat, stinging it on the way.
The vial was now empty , and Uma set it aside. He gradually sat back up staring sternly at her face. Looking at the livid expression on his face, Kanak felt her entire being, gripped with intimidation. “Na darna, na ronaa, na hichki, yaad rakh Kanak tu beti hai kiski.”
“What?!” boomed his voice that revealed both anger and anguish.
Kanak realized that she had said her chant aloud. “I was just…I am sorry…I …”
“What were you thinking? What exactly was your intention there?” Uma asked in a voice seething with held back anger as he pointed to the bathroom.
“I wasn’t thinking. I became hopeless. I felt like a cloud of darkness enveloped me and I couldn’t feel my own body. I don’t know what I did. I found a blade on the wash basin. It was sharp. What did I do?” Kanak whispered haltingly shaking all the while as she spoke.
Sudden understanding dawned on Uma as he saw her absolute despair. His manner softened immediately. ” You tried to slash your wrist. The cut was superficial and only skin deep but you lost consciousness due to extreme stress, fatigue, and …did you skip dinner tonight?”
“I could not eat properly thinking of this last test.” Kanak managed to say feebly. “I have failed. You will abandon me tomorrow. But I won’t stay here. After the health camp you had left me in that village and when I ran after you, you had asked me to leave and go back to where I belonged. I will do that tomorrow.” she finished unable to stop the stream of tears and uncontrollable sobbing at her failure.
Uma looked at her dainty form racked with her sobs. Who would believe that this delicate doll like girl had such guts. Now that she was revived and he knew that she was never really in any mortal danger, his shrewd brain got thinking. “She slashed her wrist at the thought of sleeping with me? But isn’t that what would have happened if she had passed all the tests? Then why such despair at the thought of doing it? If not for me and this marriage, then what was she working so hard for? No her sobs can’t be for losing me.”
“Stop crying Kanak. You are fine. Now, you need to answer some questions and I want honest answers.” He said in a soft, menacing voice. ” Enough of your lies and drama. I need to know what’s going on here. If you were fulfilling all these tests for me and our marriage then why such terror at coming closer to me? Discomfort I understand, but such fear and despair? I knew you wouldn’t be able to go through it and I wasn’t going to make you. I can see you flinch whenever I come close to you and your eyes betray your distaste. I want to know why? Why have you been going through everything. And if you failed, and you thought I would abandon you, then why not just do what you said you would do tomorrow – leave. What sent you in such hopelessness that you tried something so dreadful which thank God you did not succeed at? What matters to you so much to give up your life for? Answer me!” He spoke non-stop and relentlessly and the continuous questioning further fatigued Kanak’s already tired brain.
“Papers. I lost the papers.” She said under her breath.
“What papers?” Uma looked at her incredulously.
“Shop papers. Kanak mishthaan Bhandaar papers. I lost them. My life depended on them, and I lost them so I guess my mind made me try to lose my actual life.”
Uma stared at her in disbelief. “All this was about some shop papers? What is wrong with you? Agreed you are a good cook, but you wanted that shop so badly? Why?”
Kanak looked at him with angry tears spilling from her eyes. ” Because they are not JUST papers! It is not just ANY shop! That shop belonged to my Bhabho, my grandmother.”
Completely stunned, Uma stared at her.
Forced by the weakness in her body, Kanak continued in a softer voice, “That shop was started by my father and nurtured by my entire family. After my parents death it became my Bhabho’s soul, her reason to live. When she cooks there, she feels like she is close to my father, her son. And you…” She shivered violently from her exertion, ” You fraudulently got her thumbprint on those papers and are now trying to snatch the shop from her. ” Another sob escaped her throat. ” You are a very cruel man. You pretend to be soft and kind but you are a tyrant. You force people to do what you want , and if they don’t listen, you torture them. Like you tortured me by forcing your religion on me. Like you tortured my Babasa and Bhabho by sending Gabbasa to threaten them to give up the shop. You are a bad, dangerous man. That is why I came here to figure out a way to get the shop from you…” She broke down once again at the terrifying memory of being bound by ropes and gagged to be taken for wedding.
Uma saw the play of expressions on her face and he understood the meaning of each and every one of them. He found his breathing to become more labored as he saw her shoulders shake vigorously due to her crying. Instinctively, he realized that a lot of pent-up emotions were now flowing out. She was letting go of a lot of fear, hurt, pain, anger, desperation, restlessness, and suffocation. It was this collection of emotions that had put her in that trance where she had tried to harm herself. She needed to cry till she was spent. He watched her release herself and made no attempt to stop her verbally or physically. Eventually, she sobered up and looked at him. Her eyes were swollen from crying now and probably earlier when she had been in the restroom. Her face looked drawn and sallow from lack of rest and substantial meal. Her lips were dry once again. And yet, he knew that to him there was no other woman who could look more beautiful, who could grip his heart so fully. Slowly, he got up from the bed and fetched the pitcher of water and a glass. He poured a glassfull and handed it to her.
Kanak looked at him with pitiful eyes full of sadness, defeat, and also a little disbelief. Then giving in, she took the glass from him, downed all of it’s contents, and raised her glass again in pleading. He poured another glassfull for her which she drank promptly and gave a sigh of relief. The water had calmed her down as had her outburst and the crying. Now she felt totally spent, and incapable of anything else she flopped back on the mattress, her head hitting the pillow with a soft thud.
Uma took the empty glass from her hand and turned around to keep it and the pitcher back where they belonged. Then he switched off all lights except a dim night light, came around to his side of the bed, and lay down. All the activity had him feeling tired too. However, his mind being in overdrive, sleep was far away from eyes. He turned to his left to look at her. Her eyes were closed but he could tell that she wasn’t asleep as yet. “She probably has a headache and her wrist must be hurting too.” he thought. ” The medicine will help with that but it will take time unlike allopathic drugs.” He could think of only one other way to relieve her. He slid further to her side so that he was now lying down right next to her. Her eyes flew open and he saw her cower a little.
” I am just trying to help you sleep. Otherwise, the aches and pains will keep you awake for a long time. Better sleep while your stomach is still full of all that water. Otherwise, hunger will not let you sleep.” He said in a soft voice.
Kanak looked at him in disbelief. After all that she had said to him, that’s all he had to say? ” Don’t you want to scold me or get angry after all I have said?” she asked in a quivering voice.
The room was very dim and his expressions were unclear to Kanak, both due to darkness and because of the weariness that was clouding her eyes. Hence she could not see the incredible softness in his eyes and the faint smile on his lips. All she heard was , ” No fun yelling at you right now. You are weak.Get some strength with sleep, eat something for breakfast, then I will do my share of talking and will return with interest all that you have thrown at me tonight. I am a very fair fighter.” He controlled a chuckle that rose in his throat at the sound of her gulping. ” Let me do what I need to do Kanak and for now just sleep. We’ll fight again tomorrow. For now, it is truce. Ok? Just let go.” With that he raised his right hand and turned her to her right side so that her back was facing him. For a change she did not resist, or rather could not resist. He then started to apply systematic pressure to her forehead, her shoulders, and the back of her neck.
“One last question before you sleep. What’s your real name?” Uma asked with baited breath half certain of the answer.
There was a moment of utter silence. Then she whispered softy, “Kanak. That’s my real name. The one real thing in this relationship.”
Uma’s breath got caught in his throat and he felt his heart gripped tightly in some vice. Then he slowly let go of his breath. ” No. That’s not the only real thing in this relationship, but we will discuss that later. Sleep now.” He said with a tone of finality.
In a few minutes her body became limp again and he knew that this time it was due to comfort. Ten minutes later her heavy breathing indicated that she was fast asleep. Uma gently flipped her on her back again. He caressed her forehead gently and then let his hand linger on her left cheek. Wide awake, he started to go over everything she had said up to the minutest of detail to analyze and understand the full implication of her outburst. His mind scanned and considered each detail of her talk and slowly he started to put everything together in an organized manner to eventually come up with a plan of action. It had been a good one hour when without realizing it, Uma fell asleep too on his side, facing her, and his right arm lightly draped around her.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Hope you will like this update. I’m excited for the new timing and praying for the best. I hope the show will maintain a good track and get good TRPs too so that it can continue. Please do comment if you can. I’ll really appreciate it ☺