[Previously: Year 2001, Rohit Verma and Neha Gupta (Raj Gupta’s wife) meets a fatal accident on Pune - Mumbai highway. The same day Rohit’s wife Sohini Bose commits suicide in their mumbai residence. Raghav Bose Verma (son of Rohit and Sohini) is left to the care of Sohini’s brother Pradip Bose and his wife Piyana Bose. Present day: Raghav who was settled in US with his maternal uncle, decides to come to India for selling his parental home. Right before he is about to leave, he gets a call from someone in Pune, claiming he knows how his parents died. Raghav decides to visit Pune.]
Raj Gupta was an outlier in his family. He hailed from Raebareli, a small town near Lucknow. His father owned a shop in the wholesale market, and one of the most respected traders in Raebareli. Growing up, his parents humoured his interest in science as just a passing phase – a side effect of education which they must endure, however ultimately he was expected to join the family business. When Raj said he wanted to do engineering from Roorkee Engineering College, not just his parents, but almost everyone in that small town was taken aback. Gupta ji’s son doing engineering was quite unexpected.
From Raebareli to Pune, all his life he had been driven to prove naysayer wrong- his parents, his relatives, his class mates and his colleagues. Finally when he met Neha, he thought it was the ultimate challenge thrown at him, and he intended to win that. He was introduced to Neha at a common friend’s party in 1987. She was a mechanical engineer, and was working for Tata Motors at that time. Raj had recently moved in to Pune as a manufacturing line lead for a Mahindra & Mahindra. Raj’s friends told him that she recently had a break up. Raj went for the opportunity with the single mindedness of an olympian. From flowers to stuffed toys, Raj tried every trick taught in commercial movies and cheap paperback books.Eventually Neha’s walls broke down. Raj’s decision to marry Neha was another first of its kind act in his family. Neha was a Punjabi, and Raj’s family were not extremely enthused about their union, but years of dealing with their son had taught them the futility of their objection. So in the year 1990, Mr and Mrs Gupta moved in their recently constructed 2 BHK flat in Koregaon Park.
Love is a strange thing. It’s an emotion which is often the driver and the resultant of actions in life. When he looked back Raj often wondered if he was indeed in love or was he in love with the idea of being in love. Grudgingly Raj concluded that he had mistaken the headiness of pursuit as something deeper, but then he questioned if love was indeed something as deep as the poet claim it to be, or was it a mere chemical reaction. Hating to admit that he might have made an error in judging his own self, he dedicated the next few years trying to be a good husband. But things got tougher with time. He always felt like the one pulling this relationship along and he started toying with the idea of calling it quits. His friends suggested that having a child can help make things better. But as fate would have it, Raj faced disappointment there as well. Eventually both Raj and Neha fell in this routine called marriage, which gradually shifted into becoming more of a decision borne out of convenience and better economic sense.
Raj’s parents sensed his predicament and took every opportunity to remind him of his mistake which was their ultimate come back for years of Raj’s insolence. Something Raj hated more than admitting he was wrong, was others saying he was wrong. It was towards the end of the decade of their marriage, when he decided that he would do everything in his power to prove his parents wrong. Even if it was just a sham, he would have the perfect life. He would not be proven wrong. Only deterrent to that was Rohit Verma.
Rohit and Neha were college sweethearts who landed the same job in the same city, but like most college romances, it didn’t survive the harsher realities of life outside campus. And right then mixing up professional and personal life didn’t seem like a great idea to Rohit. He eventually took a transfer and moved to Tata Motor’s corporate headquarters in Mumbai. While Neha always claimed it to be just a college thing, Raj had heard all about Neha’s very public break-down in her office. At some level he often wondered if Neha ever got over Rohit. Hence when in 2001, Neha told him in an excited tone that Rohit was coming to Pune for work, all his failures found a plausible cause. Jealousy is like the fire hidden under ashes- it consumes undetected. And Raj soon got to the point where his ego and insecurities took over and he and Neha broke into their worst phase of marital bickering.
That evening, when he entered his empty flat, he was part happy. He knew he could blame his failures in life on Rohit and Neha and have a fresh start. That accident changed everything. Instantly everyone knew about Rohit and Neha. People who knew their history and Neha’s current predicament put two and two together. It would always start with the condolences, followed by those seemingly genuine questions, and finally those two questions – Who was Rohit? Why were they driving out of Pune? And friends who knew their history added – Was he the same Rohit?
Raj was a seething body of rage, when he entered the hospital. He wanted nothing to do with Neha anymore. He didn’t even look at Neha’s parents. He was there for identification and for finishing certain procedures, which the doctor had insisted he do in person. Doctor took him to his chamber and made him sit on a chair.
“I know Mr Gupta you must be going through hell right now. To be honest I don’t know what it is to be in your shoes right now. I just can’t imagine. However as a doctor it is my duty to inform you of all the details and that is what I have called you here for.”
Raj began listening for the first time. What details? What more now?
“Did your wife tell you anything recently?”
“About what? What would she have told me?”
“We did some basic blood test as part of autopsy, and we realized she was pregnant. Our guess is it was in early stage, probably her first trimester”
Raj was in shock. His first reaction was that of pain. He thought that after years of trying, God had finally given them what he wanted only to take it away prematurely. Soon after another thought occurred to him – Was it mine? More he thought about it more it seemed like the second option. Raj went into a shell. People thought he was a grieving husband, but he was broken inside. He was robbed off his ego, that one thing which was his most prized possession, that one thing which stopped him from drowning in the quicksand of jealousy and insecurities. This was an act which couldn’t go unpunished,but both Neha and Rohit were dead. When he inquired he found out that coincidentally Sohini (Rohit’s wife) committed suicide on the same day. She must have known as well, he thought, and their only son had left for US with his relatives.
But that was 15 years ago. Today he will be meeting Raghav Bose Verma face to face. Last few days he had been debating how to avenge his hurt pride. He just couldn’t make up his mind.
To be continued….