“Kulfi” Anirudh, blurted out the moment he heard the phone getting picked up on the other end of the line. “What? Hello” a sweet low voice responded, in utter confusion. “Kulfi!!” Anirudh persisted. “Sorry wrong number” the same voice, now sounding bored and irritated replied. “Bondita, it is kulfi” “Sakha ba.. Barrister Anirudh? What kulfi?? Are you drunk early in the morning?? I am hanging up now” Bondita hurriedly said, trying to end the call before anyone overhears her talking to their enemy on the phone, so early in the morning.
“I know you don’t want to talk and have no interest in listening to me either but at least you too understand the enmity between our two villages needs to end before any more bloodsheds or misunderstandings occur. I have found a clue which could resolve the mystery of that deadly feast from eight years ago, which was the very cause of the beginning of this rivalry. But I can not solve it without your help.” Anirudh said, pleading. She truly had wanted to have nothing to do with the man on the phone. But the prospect of ending this ever-dangerous age-old rivalry was enticing. Bondita sighed “What do you want me to do?” “Meet on the riverside, which comes on the way to your old village, where our car broke down when we were going there for…” Anirudh whispered, reminiscing… “I get it” her cold voice cut him short. “Will meet you there this afternoon by 4pm” “That would be great” came as a gentle reply from his side before the line went dead.
Bondita adorned a simple baby pink Banarasi saree as she left her house after making a random excuse of going to the public library. She got into a rickshaw and walked with hurried steps once she got down near to river bank, to find Anirudh. Finally, her eyes fell on him. He was a wearing a royal blue suit which fitted his brawny muscles just right. The glow of the dusk got reflected through his glasses as he stood admiring the drowning sun. For a second, she felt the old Anirudh was back, the man she had admired secretly for years, the man who stood like an invincible wall in front of her, the man she had loved. Feeling a pair of eyes on him, Anirudh turned and their eyes met. Anirudh gave her a broad smile. He felt that whenever he would conclude that she could not be anymore beautiful, she would appear before him, more beautiful, more stunning than before, breaking her own standards of beauty. As he saw her standing there in simple saree, with hardly any jewellery or makeup, and with just the glow of dusk falling gracefully on her face, it felt like the world’s most perfect scenery to him, a scenery he wouldn’t trade for the whole of galaxy. Both just stood there, lost in each other’s eyes. A gentle wind swept by them, waking them both from their dreams as each shuddered from the sudden cold.
“We don’t have a lot of time. What clue were you talking about?” Bondita spoke up as she politely raised her hand to stop Anirudh from removing his jacket to give it to her. Though slightly hurt, Anirudh spoke “ I told you Kulfi” “You are still not done with that?” Bondita replied, frustrated. “I meant, where do you guys get your kulfi from?” Anirudh replied, patiently. “We don’t eat kulfi at our place. Thakuma forbade everyone from eating it because we would get cold easily. What are you trying say?” Bondita answered, completely clueless. “That day on the day of the feast, all the food were served to both families together, in front of everyone, so there was no chance to poison it otherwise both families would have been affected but that day Kulfi was served as dessert, directly when it was opened in front of our eyes. Also remember when you brought Kulfi for the kids as Vayjanti, Somnath informed that those too were poisoned. That means” Anirudh’s explanation was cut off by Bondita. “That means it was the Kulfi which was poisoned not the food. It was sent by someone who clearly knew that Thakuma won’t allow her family to have it but will serve it to the Roy Chowdharys. It can’t be Thakuma because she had neither had any idea where Kulfis were sold nor did she know that I was coming to your house instead of court.” “Precisely” Anirudh exclaimed, beaming at Bondita’s skills. “Let’s do this then. Thakuma has a full book of addresses of trusted shops from which we order our stuff. I will try to find the address of the kulfi shop, then we can go the place and investigate further” Bondita concluded. “Perfect” Anirudh exclaimed “Bondita” he spoke as he watched her turn to leave “You can severe all relations of the past with me. I won’t mind because I truly deserved it. But as we venture together on this journey to find out the truth, can we be at least friends?” Bondita paused for a second and turned to see him, with his hand raised for a handshake.
Bondita observed Anirudh as the sun gleamed on his face. He had aged, but aged finely. His eyes had turned mature and smile was a little more restrained than it used to be but he was nonetheless handsome. Her heart agreed, much before her mind could process Anirudh’s request. Just the way it had requested his friendship eight years ago, without a second thought. Her heartbeat quickened thumping loudly as she rose her hand, without a word, ever so gently and shook his warm hand, exactly the way it had quickened then in the past when he had called her, for the very first time, as his Sakhi.
Anirudh’s heart jumped in delight as her cold hands shook his hand. Just when he was about to show her his most handsome smile, he saw the colour drain from her face and turn completely pale. Anirudh got immediately worried and before he could ask anything, her pale lips pated ever so slightly and in an almost whisper, she said “Chandrachur Jamai Babu”