The blaring chime of the clock announced that it was 8 o clock. She was alone in her thatched roof house. Crouching on a bamboo chair, under the flickering glow of the lantern, she was trying hard to concentrate on her Political Science book.
“Political science is a social science concerned with the theory and practice of politics and the description and….”
Slowly the words appeared blurred as her mind swayed into the arms of Ratul, her fiancé, reminiscing the lovely evenings they had spent together. Her heart was missing his presence, his essence in the approaching spring. It had been a week since she had looked into his deep brown eyes. Urgently called by his employer in the city, Ratul had to cut short the visit to his village.
The small font of the book glared at her, reminding her of the impending exam the next day. It was her third attempt to clear the BA finals. Ever since Ratul came into her life, her only dream has been a home of their own, surrounded by an array of Rose and Masundhara plants. It was because of her mother that she was appearing for the exam again. Along with her brother, her mother was staying at her Mausi’s place for the night.
The light from the lantern was almost dying but she didn’t bother about it.
Loud thunderous knocks on the door woke her up in a jolt. She had been sleeping for an hour or two. The sudden commotion shocked her. Someone was desperately trying to get in. With her heart hammering against her chest she managed to mutter,
“Who is it?”
“Rupali … open the door Rupali… it’s me Ratul …”
Relieved but anxious, she opened the door. Ratul’s disheveled condition surprised her. He hurriedly limped inside and immediately closed the door.
“Is Khuri sleeping?” … he whispered loudly
“No she’s at Juna Mausi’s place… what happened? “
He settled in the darkest corner of the room but still could feel Rupali’s questioning gaze bore through him.
This is the moment of truth, he thought.
As Rupali offered him a glass of water, he asked her to sit beside him.
“Rupali, there’s not much time left…you should know the truth about me. “, he was breathing heavily. Beads of sweat now dropped down his eyebrow. The urgency in his tone frightened her.
He could see her curiosity even though she didn’t say anything. Always silent, so quite is my Rupali, he thought.
“Don’t misunderstand me Rupali, I did it for us, for my family. You know how badly I need money to run the household…” He paused for moment. Still contemplating whether to tell her the truth or not.
“Tell me Ratul, what is it?” Rupali whispered slowly.
He lowered his voice.
“I used to illegally make and supply ammunitions to a group. There are youths from nearby villages also. The blast near the Shivapur overbridge was …” Rupali sharply looked towards at him.
“was conspired by us …”
The words slashed through her, shaking her whole body. Images of numerous newspaper reports flashed before her eyes, scarred bodies, wailing women…
“One of us betrayed us to the police. Now CRPF and the army are chasing us like hound dogs…only few of us are alive…” his voice trailed off.
Rupali gasped in horror. Her mind, her hands, her whole body went numb. Not able to come in terms with the fact that she was living in a fake reality. The silence that pursued was the most uncomfortable silence they had ever shared.
She felt like a struggling lamp in a typhoon. Moments passed by without a word. She didn’t know for how long they stayed like that.
Quietly, Ratul stood up and slowly limped towards the door.
“I am leaving the country tomorrow Rupali. Before leaving I wanted you to know the truth.”
“I am sorry”, Rupali murmured, but the words choked in her throat.
He opened the door. She was still in a trance.
“I need to go”.
She didn’t ask where. For the last time she gazed at his sun-tanned face and then there was darkness.
Dreams cannot be built on the graves of somebody else’s dream.
Gradually she gathered herself and locked the door. She looked at the antique wall clock. It was half past 1. There’s still some time left, she thought. Taking out the kerosene Jarkin she poured some into the lantern. The diya now burned bright and steady.
Sitting on the bamboo chair, she opened her book. The words had never been clearer before and never had been she more determined.
” Political science is a social science concerned with the theory and practice of politics ….”Her voice pierced through the deafening silence of the night.
It was almost 8 am when Rupali heard her friend calling for her.
“Rupali … Rupali … come soon… we will get late for exam… “
“Coming Rituja… but first I need to stop by the Police station…”