Kajal stepped into the vast foyer of Sharanya Productions. It was the first day of her job here. They had been kind enough to consider her appearing later for her exams. She walked towards the reception, where a temporary ID card was issued to her. Waiting for the formality to be done regarding that, she looked at her silhouette on the finely polished tiles adorning the wall behind. She was dressed in a pearl-colored salwar kameez with intricate sari work hugging her curves; the onion-colored dupatta was what had attracted her to this outfit. KB had insisted she revamp her wardrobe, given that she had to keep up the appearance of being a superstar’s wife.
She received the ID and made her way to the fifth floor, where the writer’s wing lay. After completing the HR formalities, she waited in her little cubicle as she was allotted a laptop. She had an hour since Ashwin Aacharya the lead writer she was to assist, was in an important meeting. She browsed through a few documents given to her the cacophony of the typing keys, but everything blurred before her eyes as she stared at the screen without scrolling down.
It was two weeks since they had been tied in sacred matrimony, and KB had barely spoken with her let alone spend time. He had never been home that first week. She had kept herself busy by dusting and mopping the furniture and cooking despite the surprised housekeeper visiting them twice. She had planted some more plans along the window and the drawing room was now redolent with the fragrance of certain flowering buds. She also read a lot in his enormous library. She never ventured upstairs but the curiosity never left her.
His cast had come off a couple of days ago and he had resumed shooting his serial. The Mahabaleshwar schedule that was missed was to come up next week and she was glad she now had the job to keep her occupied. She didn’t know what to make of the enigma called her ‘husband’, but it was heartbreaking every time she saw him going miles avoiding her. She often cried herself to sleep. She knew this was a marriage only in name but the fact that she had fallen head over heels for him didn’t change anything… it was way too painful.
Blinking back tears, she got back to her work. If people here knew about her no one asked. These people were used to celebrities hovering around the place so their reaction wasn’t surprising. KB had insisted she take the car and had arranged a driver for her. She decided to learn driving at the earliest so she could be independent in that area. By the time the year got over and they separated she wanted to be a full-fledged career woman with a degree in tow. Then, hopefully, she could apply to her dream university abroad after settling Krunal.
Despite everything, her heart fell… Right then, Ashwin Acharya walked in and called for a team meet. As she settled into her work, she realized it would be a long day… something she was looking forward to.
Later that evening, after a fruitful first day at work she walked into the house to blaring music. What the hell?
She saw a few people gathered and the chandelier on in full glory as they danced and laughed. She saw some of them consume what appeared to be liquor. She frowned as she walked in and it was then she realized KB’s condition the day their marriage was fixed. So this is what he meant. Finally, the man was showing his true colours. The cast was out and he was back to his flamboyant self. She was a fool to think of anything else… Speaking of which, where the hell was he?
Her question was answered when she passed the main part of the drawing-room. To her utmost annoyance, her plants were pushed to a corner along with the furniture now covered by coats and bags while they danced and in one corner, she saw KB dance with his arms on Hetal’s hips as she gyrated to the music a bit too close to Kajal’s dismay. She wanted nothing more than to slap the daylights out of the wanton woman but what could she do if her husband forgot his vows?
Blinking back tears, she rushed into her room, closing it shut, wondering if those gathered there knew about the reality of her relationship with her husband. The party went on late and Kajal was troubled by the rock music seeping through the shut doors and it irritated her no end. She had just been out a little while ago to catch up on a quick dinner she had kept for herself in the fridge when she had seen the crowd had thinned out but KB and Hetal were still stuck to each other like glue.
The music levels reduced suddenly but didn’t stop, and she now wondered what they were up to. Shutting down her laptop after being unable to get any work done, she rushed outside guns blazing. To her surprise, two guys were sprawled on the couch glued to their mobiles and she saw Hetal hovering around KB holding his arm as she forced him to try out a few dance steps. Kajal stomped to the music system and pulled out the plugs from their respective creaking sockets, plunging the place into sudden silence.
KB and Hetal walked towards her as she stood with hands folded near her chest, panting in anger.
“What the fuck, Kajal?” KB spoke in the same lethal voice he had used on the first day with her after the press debacle.
“I should be asking you that, KB…” she intentionally didn’t use his name. It meant nothing anymore.
Hetal moved closer and spoke. “…Chill Kajal. We are just winding up after a tiring day…”
“Winding up… my foot. You are just causing a nuisance around here… you ruined my plants, and look at the condition of this place… it reeks of junk food and booze…”
“Kajal…I had told you to stay away…” KB continued in the same voice, and she lost it.
“I am not interested in your rendezvous here…this is your home, and you are free to do as you wish… but don’t forget I live here too, and I am disturbed. As for you, young lady…” She turned towards Hetal. “… you should realize that you are no longer an arm candy. This man here is my husband. Why don’t you find someone of your ilk to get close to now?”
“How dare you talk to me like that?” Hetal’s eyes blazed.
“You deserve it, Miss. When you get close to married men… I don’t know how normal it is in your high society, but from where I come from, there is a name given to such women although the man is equally responsible…” She glared at a stunned KB and continued. “…There wasn’t a single lady around today here ever since I came, and its way past 1AM… that makes it 5 hours… 5 goddamn hours you have been sticking to each other…and the responsibility of maintaining marital boundaries aren’t restricted to the woman alone. So both of you stop your frolicking and please maintain some calm… I need to rest. There is a life beyond booze and partying on a working night…” She turned to leave.
“Kajal, stop right there.” KB’s loud voice bellowed into the silent night. Kajal turned around with her heart thudding. Her bravado gathered was long gone.
“How dare you insult my guests… apologize to Hetal right now…” he glared at her.
Tears filled her eyes as she struggled to retain her composure. “Forget it KB… I care a damn if she feels insulted or not… she knows that she is wrong, and so are you. If anyone here deserves an apology, here its me…” She stood hands on her hips.
The two men who were watching the fun so far suddenly realized it was going too far, and they stood up, picking up their jackets and bags and one of them pulled Hetal along as she reluctantly left.
“FUCK you all…” Hetal screamed as she banged the door shut, the noise vibrating through their walls.
Kajal turned to go back to her room when KB held her hand and pulled her back, turning her to face him.
“Looks like you have forgotten this isn’t a real marriage, so stop acting like my wife. I had warned you right from day one to stay out of my business and I will stay out of yours. So this is my last warning to you… don’t forget we both stand to lose a lot if your drama goes public. Baring Hetal, no one here knew about our marriage contract… what if it would have gone viral?”
She tried her best to control herself. “In that case, KB, you should be careful as well. What would they say watching you dance with a woman who is not your wife? Aren’t you worried about that getting viral?”
“That’s the way my life has always been… don’t you know about my reputation? I am a woman’s man Kajal… so for the last time, stay away. Complete a year in silence and then we can go our respective ways….” He walked out of place, leaving her in her muddle of sorrow.
One year? This first month was in itself getting tedious by the day. How on earth was she going to last…. She clenched her betraying heart; she wanted to hate the guy for torturing her but couldn’t seem to get herself to do it.
Dreams once envisioned are all in tatters
Retaining her sanity is all that matters.
KB rushed into his room, shutting the door, and slipped to the floor along its length. He rubbed his face as he breathed heavily. He knew he had gone the extra mile today and Hetal… God bless the lady. She had been a true friend and helped him in his ruse.
He had tried all other means in these two weeks but in vain. He was in love with her, and every little thing Kajal did for him or the house was taking him dangerously closer to her. That couldn’t happen. He looked up with vision blurring with unshed tears at the old picture of him with his friends a day before that fateful night years ago. He had kept that one framed picture to remind himself he was living their share of life. Something he didn’t deserve at all…
He couldn’t enjoy a happy married life, couldn’t fall in love… he had agreed to contract marriage for the same reason. But, he had never expected to fall in love out of the blue and further not expected Kajal to be the bride by chance!
This was so painful. Kajal must be hurting as well. She should be hating him by now. He sincerely hoped so… he couldn’t destroy another life. But, Mr. Mehta who was affected by Raj’s murder was digging deep and things appeared murkier than just a coincidence. His past was dark, not just from the decade-old accident but also from his father’s deeds. What was his father involved in? And why did it come to haunt him after all these years?
It meant he was in danger and by association Kajal would be too. The estate had good security and he wasn’t worried about his ajji and had arranged a driver for Kajal, who was a bodyguard. No use scaring her. And finally, Subodh mama… he wondered how the weasel fit into the scheme of things.
Whatever it was, he would do anything to protect the woman he loved, even if he had to let go of her and face her hatred for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile at Dongri
Rafiq plopped on the hard concrete seat in the garden with one leg folded up. Every movement caused pain in the joints… he wasn’t young anymore, and the years of physical labor were taking their toll. The place looked eerie at night, and he could see a few red glows and smokes emanating from the bushes. This was famous as a drug zone or soliciting for those who couldn’t afford Madam’s brothel.
He smoked a joint his neighbor Kader had given him earlier. The moron didn’t know Rafiq had fucked his wife behind him. The fat hag was a poor consolation for calming his libido left undone by Chameli. He would get back at that bitch soon. She would know what it was to insult him.
He was to meet some Subodh Deshmukh, apparently a relative of the target. He wondered how easy it was to betray your kith and kin. He wouldn’t know since he was an orphan but he had been loyal to Saabji for two decades now. He had received blows, beatings, bled, jailed and tortured. He had endured it all only for Saabji. He had even done the two-bit household chores for the older man and his mentally unstable wife but then the payout was good and his life was easy. This Subodh guy sounded like a crook and Rafiq could identify one anywhere. He knew he had to be alert as well. And this time he couldn’t let down Saabji.
He was a bike come to a halt near the garden’s exit, with a loud roar. Rafiq cringed. Why was the idiot publicizing? What if there are cops around? No one usually came to the stinky place since they didn’t get any hafta here. The uniforms only made rounds of the brothel and madam treated them well to look the other way. He had proof to bring them all down.
The man walked holding a handkerchief to his nose and Rafiq waved to him.
“So, you are Rafiq?” the man asked.
“Yes sir… I wanted the schedule…”
“Yes… yes…” The man spoke through the handkerchief. “…here in Mumbai, he had guards all the time. The home is guarded too. But next week, he is off to Mahabaleshwar for a shoot and that will be a golden opportunity. I have found out the shooting of a particular scene is on the mountain tip and there is a tiny railing. I have spoken to someone who will give you entry as a light man there… they are short on workforce and will willingly take you in. All you have to do is arrange an accident. So just be ready and don’t mess this up. Here are the tickets and a motel detail where you will stay. Here is cash for all payments. And here is the ID I got made for you…and … do not contact me. When you finish the job, go back to the motel and wait for further instructions” The man turned and left.
Rafiq peeped into the envelope with the wad of cash. Peanuts yet again, he huffed. He was just waiting. What did Saabji think? Would he be twiddling his thumbs? He had proof of all the nefarious activities and Saabji’s involvement in the same.
He smiled… his time would come soon!