Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vine: Chapter 5: To believe or not to believe

[Previously: Year 2001, Rohit Verma and Neha Gupta (Raj Gupta’s wife) meet 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 to sell his parental home. Getting a sudden call from Raj Gupta claiming he knows the truth about his parent’s death, Raghav meets him in Pune. Disturbed from what he gets to know, Raghav is left in a state of disbelief. He is put up at his father’s friend and colleague, Sriram Iyer’s residence in Mumbai]
Sriram Iyer was Rohit’s colleague in Tata Motors and one of the few people who had been in touch with Raghav’s uncle over the years. When he heard Raghav was coming to India, he insisted that Raghav stays with him. So when Raghav called to tell him that he was in Pune for some work and will be reaching a day late, he was a little disturbed. He knew that Rohit had a complicated past, and wasn't sure if his son was ready to know about it.
As Raghav walked into his apartment, Sriram noticed Raghav’s resemblance with Rohit. While he had inherited his father’s built and bodily features, his face was his mother’s. Raghav seemed unusually quiet which he attributed to long travel hours over the last three days. He greeted him and asked his daughter to show him his room while advising him to get some rest.
“So feel free to use this cupboard for your stuff. There is also a bell which you can ring for room service or just call out loudly, and someone will take the order”, Tanya said with a hint of sarcasm. Usually her semi sarcastic charm works on guys her age. Raghav seemed a little too lost in his own world. She wasn’t used to guys not giving her 200% of their attention. He definitely piqued her interest.
“You know usually, guys are nicer, specially when they have such nice host” she quipped.
“I am sorry for being rude, but it hasn't been a very usual day for me, not in the last couple of days”
“Well is it the long travel, the pollution and the dirt in India? or just the poor Indians on the road?”. She was on a roll, Tanya thought to herself, feeling pleased with her sharp remarks.
Raghav considered his answer for a moment. The weight he was carrying was becoming heavier with every passing second. Sometimes opening up to a complete stranger is easier. Comforting.
“What if you were told that everything I had known about my father, as a person, was a lie. And that he wasn't the hero I thought he was. He had serious character flaws and that he was the reason my mother committed suicide? How do you handle something like that? I can't even confront him and ask for an explanation.”
“Well it is like the time, someone walked up to a friend of mine whose dad is a politician and asked - how did she feel knowing that her dad was a corrupt politician and swindles public money? She answered in a matter of fact way, that he had been an excellent father and have always been there when she needed him. He could be a corrupt politician professionally but as a father he was the best. You need to ask yourself what he was to you? Was he a good father?”
“It is not that simple. He destroyed two families and drove my mother to committing suicide. How can I forgive him for that?”
“But why will you not? Sorry to break this to you, but committing suicide is not the most honorable decisions in my opinion. It is like running away from a fight. Moreover it was your mother’s decision. In fact you should be angry at your mother for deserting you and not sticking around to give you a proper childhood.”
Raghav was conflicted. Tanya spoke sense, but he was sad and angry at some level, and somehow logic is never well suited for such occasions.
Tanya sensed his conflict, and quickly said - “You know a walk and strong cup of filter coffee is what doctor recommends for such occasions”
Raghav was too tired to object, also at some level he was liking Tanya’s company. It was certainly better than the soliloquy which was going on in his head. Next day Raghav spent his time finishing all the paperwork for the sale of his parents’ flat. He decided to go have a last look the day after. He also cancelled his trip to Goa and booked himself on an earlier flight back to New York. He needed to go back to his familiar world. This short trip hadn't panned out the way he thought he would.
In the evening on their way back, Sriram asked Raghav what he had heard about his father and from where. Raghav was initially taken aback by the bluntness of the question, but he realized that Sriram could actually give him some real insight to his father’s life and so he narrated the entire chain of events to him. Sriram was clearly agitated by the end of it.
“No man ever is born without flaws and it is all easy for us to judge someone from a distance. Rohit is not here to defend or refute what Raj has said, and we don't know what the truth was. Having said that I have known your father and your mother for a long time. Rohit was an honorable man. I don't know what exactly transpired there in Pune. I had also heard of many office rumors around this, but I have known Rohit and I know he couldn't have done what Raj claimed. In fact it was rumored that Raj and Neha had been having marital troubles much before Rohit even went to Pune, and that Neha had been having an extra-marital affair much before Rohit came back in her life. But then again, I don't know these for a fact, and all of this happened fifteen years ago. It has been tough on Raj, but how do you know that all of this is not a figment of his imagination. Fifteen years is a long time to obsess about something and enough to lose objectivity in your own mind. I find this whole incident of Raj reaching out suddenly to you and coming up with all of these documents and proofs too well timed. It don't seem right. As about your mother’s death, why don't you talk to someone who was close to your mother. May be they will have an insight to what really happened. Incidentally I knew her superior in BARC. He lives in Andheri. Why don't you go visit him? He was very fond of your mother and had known your parents for a long time.”
Raghav sat there quietly in the car. Yes Raj’s story seemed a little too complete and with all the proofs, but then Sriram is obviously biased towards his friend. He kept remembering what Tanya told him - was he a bad father, if not he had no reason to complaint. But is it so simple? How can you be so objective in life? Should he reach out to his mother’s old boss? What if that confirms what he already dreads? But then what does he stand to lose at this point?
He took a deep breath and stood undecided, but he was determined to find out.
To be continued….

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