She was too good for him. They were uneven. Anupam was Sheena ‘s next door neighbor. He lived in a nondescript two roomed house with asbestos roofs in the slums whereas she resided in a three storied house beside him. Both were of the same age. While she studied in one of the most renowned girls’ school, he was studying in the local corporation school. They were poles apart financially and status wise but that didn’t deter him from admiring her. He was totally taken by her beauty, grace and charm. Whenever she passed him he would stare at her .He was more than infatuated, he was enamored with her.
Anupam was a fair and handsome boy but he wasn’t aware of it like most impoverished people who have their minds preoccupied with more important things. Being a good student he earned a scholarship throughout his school days and college. It was in college that he grew close to her since they studied the same subjects and were in the same class. They started by sharing notes which developed into mutual admiration and love. After college they often went to the theatres to watch a film or for a stroll around the ‘maidan’. Anupam knew he had to be well-settled in life otherwise he couldn’t marry her. Only a few selective friends knew of their courtship and affair which was well guarded as they knew they would face strong opposition from their families. Soon they both graduated. As expected he fared well in his exams and was ranked first class second in his university. Sheena did well too although she didn’t acquire a first class. By this time they had grown immensely close to one another and couldn’t think of living a life apart.
Sheena’s father in the meantime started looking for a suitable groom for his daughter. Sheena was beautiful and qualified and he was confident that he could get a good match for his daughter. He gave out advertisements in matrimonial columns of newspapers and even hired the services of a professional matchmaker. Sheena was tensed and anguished for she didn’t know how to stop him. She couldn’t bring up Anupam’s name because he wasn’t established yet. And, anyways if he learnt about him he would get into fits of anger as he knew Anupam and his family well.
“What will I do now?” cried Sheena to Anupam.
Anupam thought for a moment and said, “You can tell them that you want to study further and only after you get a job will you think of marriage and you needed to be economically independent first.”
“Yup!” she jumped up at the idea. “I can’t just let my education go to waste. If I do my teacher’s training now, then within two years I can get a job as a school teacher.”
“Yes. By that time I hope to get something too,” he said smiling.
“We both need to work and establish ourselves first.”
“I don’t know whether we both need to work eventually but it appears to be the only way to stop your father from searching for a groom. I need at least three to four years to fulfill my dreams of becoming a lecturer and you need to be supportive during this while.”
That evening Sheena went home and told his father about her future plans of becoming a teacher. She refused to get married before that. He was reluctant at first but ultimately succumbed to her wishes.
Years quickly passed by while Anupam completed his masters with good grades Sheena attained her B Ed degree and secured a job in a local school as a teacher. Every day after school she came to meet him otherwise he would be upset. And her parents were constantly pressurizing her to marry. Amidst this chaos and confusion he finally accomplished his wish of becoming a lecturer. Now before them lay the most difficult task of persuading their guardians to accept them as a couple.
Sheena after much deliberation approached her mother and told her about Anupam. How much she liked him; what a good human being he was and also the foremost fact that she would marry no one but him. Her mother gaped at her in disbelief. She tried hard to reason with her that their families were poles apart financially and were of a different class and her father would never accept Anupam as his son -in-law. She couldn’t put her family through such a shame just to fulfil her own wishes. She was beautiful, educated and they had their dreams of getting her married into a good family and with a most eligible bachelor. But Sheena was adamant. She knew it was futile to argue with her parents as they would never accept Anupam as a part of their family. She knew she would never be happy with any other. So both of them opted for a registry marriage after which they went to Kalighat Temple to get married ceremoniously. They rented a small two roomed flat in Maniktala where they started a family.
They were a happy couple who had but one regret that Sheena’s parents didn’t accept them. Soon after a year she gave birth to a lovely daughter, whom they named Trishna. They thought maybe the barriers and hostility would resolve once Sheena’s parents saw their grandchild. So on one auspicious Sunday Sheena and Anupam went on a surprise visit to her parents’ home with little Trishna. Everyone was pleasantly surprised and soon all grievances were forgotten on seeing her.
Since his boyhood days, Anupam had a crush on Sheena and that infatuation grew to become love, a strong consuming love which sometimes became suffocating.
Just before the Puja vacations Sheena returned home with a beautiful Kanjeevaram sari which she purchased from a boy who came to sell saris at her school. Enthusiastically she showed her sari to Anupam. He smiled dryly.
“Are you upset because I have purchased a costly sari without your consent?” she asked.
“No, no, nothing of that sort. Why should I be? It’s a beautiful sari and it would look stunning on you,” he added quickly.
A strong suspicion engulfed him which he had no control over. Was Sheena having an affair? Maybe this sari was gifted by her boyfriend. Such thoughts bothered him and made him restless, moody and unhappy. He tried hard to stop his mind from wandering but met with little success. He searched Sheena belongings when she wasn’t at home but found no clues to support his assumptions.
It was the month of December and an official picnic was arranged by Anupam’s College where family members were also invited. They went to Kalyani picnic gardens on a luxury bus that they hired. Sheena’s easy going and pleasant personality made her popular. She sang songs and even took part in games. The Principal of the college praised her and so did also other staff members.
“You not only have a beautiful wife, Anupam, but also a talented and accomplished lady as your life partner. You are indeed a very lucky man,” Dr. Chakraborty, the principal had said.
Anupam felt proud but at the same time a little insecure. Maybe all men found her attractive and tried to get close to her, he thought. Having a beautiful and accomplished wife was like possessing a rose which was accompanied with thrones.
With every passing day, he felt she was growing prettier and he became more protective about her than ever before. He was a content man with a lovely family but this menacing suspicion killed his happiness.
Their daughter grew to be a very pretty looking girl who possessed all the charms and beauty of her parents. She was admitted to an eminent school and now Sheena became more preoccupied than before because she had to devote a lot of her time to her and Anupam felt neglected.
On summer vacations when schools and colleges were closed Sheena took Trishna to visit her parents’ place for a couple of days. During this period Anupam felt not only lonely but a sense of uneasiness gripped over him. What was Sheena doing now he thought anguished? After a day or two he could no longer remain cool. He gathered his bags and set off to his in-laws house. Everyone was astonished to see him.
“Is anything the matter?” asked Sheena
“No, nothing really. Actually I was feeling a bit lonely so I thought of visiting you,” he said.
“A good thing you did. We are all happy,” said his in-laws welcoming him heartily.
As he grew older his activities and ways made his close relatives and friends suspect his abnormality. Rumors spread about his obsession for his wife. Everybody knew that they lived a happy conjugal life otherwise.
Trishna turned out to be a bright student like her father. She fulfilled his wish of being a professor. She married her classmate just like her parents but this time there wasn’t any opposition from her family.
Everybody regarded him to be a content man who had a beautiful wife and now an equally gifted daughter .Maybe he couldn’t withstand so much happiness and praise. And ill fate followed. Soon after Trishna’s marriage, Sheena fell critically ill and suddenly passed away. Her death shocked him. He was numb with grief and he grew frailer by the day. He looked like a living corpse who had lost all interest in life.
On the eleventh day after Sheena’s demise and during her ‘sraddha’ ceremony he had a stroke and died. All his family members conjectured that maybe he wasn’t at peace in this world; was worried and suspicious of his wife and what she was up to after death and so he followed her.