Forensic examination of the next part of John’s memoir shows that he was losing all confidence in the sanctity of marriages. Persons are often exploited by their spouses, parents of spouses. He started thinking of ways to revive individual’s vision and passion for reaching new heights, in spite of discouraging partners.
Last time when John met Adeline, there was not much time for one-to-one talk, amidst so many people invited to the wedding ceremony of Jewel and Ricky. While visiting Jamesburg this time eight years after that day, John dropped in at Adeline’s place to catch up with her.
John knew Adeline more as a sister in his childhood days — a bit older than him, she was of the same age-group as Sally. Adeline and Sandy were two daughters born to Radwa, one sister of John’s father — Sullivan; Adeline was younger to Sandy by two years. Adeline and Sandy had a younger brother Prescott or Manu, who is younger to John by 7 years. John had still not forgotten the days, when Little-Aunty Radwa brought six month old Prescott to Sullivan’s place; every morning Little Aunty used to tear off the petiole of a betel leaf and press into little Prescott’s anus and faeces would promptly come out of little Prescott’s anus.
Adeline took John to her drawing room, where a few photos were mounted on the wall. John could easily recognise the faces of Adeline’s parents, though he did not remember their names now, he bowed his head down to respect Little Auntie and Little Uncle, as John used to call them. Adeline also remembered Sullivan and Martina and said how much she liked the dishes prepared by Martina, and always looked forward to having the next visit to Martina’s place. In childhood days, John too liked to see the Little Uncle’s car near their place. Little Uncle was the richest of the close relatives of Sullivan and Martina. Little Auntie and Little Uncle always brought lots of gifts, whenever they visited Sullivan’s place. Sandy used to get lessons in music, and she used to sing lots of songs using Gaylene’s harmonium for accompaniment. Short visits of 4/5 hours by Little Auntie and Little Uncle, used to be filled with lots of songs from Sandy and Gaylene, some by Millie, Sallie and Adeline, plus lots of food. During the festive seasons, Sullivan used to buy gifts for his sister Radwa and her family. John remembers he had often gone with Sullivan to visit Little Auntie’s place with festival gifts, he remembers how sumptuously he was treated by Little Auntie; but he had never noticed that Little Auntie too gave Sullivan lot of money for buying gifts for Sullivan’s sons and daughters. Only recently Sally told John that Little Auntie used to provide Sullivan lots of funds for buying festival gifts for Sullivan’s sons and daughters; using that funds Sullivan used to buy gifts not only for his own sons and daughters but also for Little Auntie’s family; all gifts Sullivan carried to Little Auntie’s family were in fact paid by her indirectly. As John was in primary schools those days; no one spelt out these details to him.
The rich Little Uncle did not live for long. He died of a complicated gastric ulcer at the age of 35. He managed to get Sandy married to a handsome boy Addison, only a couple of months before he died. Addison was working as an engineering draughtsman, earning a reasonably good salary, but as he did not inherit any property from his parents, he needed to live in a tiny one bedroom flat in Galikhat. Sandy had to transit from a huge house to a tiny flat after her marriage. What could Sandy do? She was not a beautiful girl, her complexion was not attractive, and her face was ugly, especially when beside the charming face of fair and handsome Addison. Adeline was however very attractive, both in her appearance and complexion.
When Little Uncle died, members of his family started vying with each other for the share of his business and estate. Little Uncle owned the franchise of a number of petrol stations and automobile parts in the city. Sullivan had to stand beside Radwa in her family meetings only to safeguard her interests. Since Sullivan’s financial status was much inferior to that of Little Uncle’s family, Martina cautioned Sullivan not to get directly involved in any transaction dealing with Little Uncle’s estate. He acted only in the capacity of advisor to Radwa.
Sullivan’s responsibility was to ensure that all the franchises were purchased by Little Uncle’s family members or even outsiders and the proceeds of the purchase were handed over to Little Aunty Radwa. With his experience of working in the office of Accountant General, he was competent in this area. Radwa did not like to continue in the house, where Little Uncle used to live jointly with his mother, his uncle, his brothers and sisters and cousins. After the franchises had been sold, Sullivan estimated how much funds Radwa had and the best ways to live on that funds from then on. Sullivan invested about half the funds in fixed interest bonds, so that Radwa would get a monthly income to survive, the other half was used to buy a good house in Gallybunge area, near where Sullivan used to live. Sullivan took good care to ensure that the house would suit Radwa, and her offspring — Adeline, Sandy and Prescott, so that they could easily commute to the places of work and relatives. As Radwa lost her father in her childhood, she always adored Sullivan as her father; she conveyed her love and respect for Sullivan and Martina whenever she could.
In Adeline’s drawing room, John now walked to another photo. John was unable to recollect the face of Adeline’s husband Tipdiman, but John could easily make out that this garlanded photo in the middle of the wall could not be of anyone else.
‘Is this Tipdida, Bubudi’ John asked, ‘when was this photo taken?’ — Bubudi is Adeline’s nickname to John; Tipdida is the nickname for Tipdiman.
‘This photo was taken in Drakensberg, two days before he died en route to Estcourt.’ — Adeline started from the photo in front.
John knew that Adeline was married to a rich business man, but did not know all the details. He also knew that Tipdida was much older than Adeline, almost by 20 years; he did not know the exact details. Adeline was married before Millie got married; John knew that his Little Aunty spent a lot on dowries; still she got a groom who was almost as old as the bride’s father. John remembered that Martina was a bit envious about the early marriages of Sandy and Adeline; but in order to get rich and well established grooms in the same caste often some compromises need be made. He also knew that Tipdida died of multiple diseases, Diabetes, Hypertension, a serious condition that could lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.
‘Your Tipdida’s doctor advised that he should go somewhere for a change. We usually live in Chandernagore, in this house where you are now.’ — Adeline continued.
‘We wanted to go somewhere, where a place is owned by your Tipdida’s family, so that we need not pay any rent and could stay as long as we would wish.’
‘There are two such places — Lesotho and Drakensberg, where we could go for a change. We wanted to go to Lesotho, because we have good medical facilities there. Unfortunately, but, Drakensberg belonged to your Tipdida, when Lesotho belonged to his paternal uncle Kaka, who declined to allow us to stay in his place at Lesotho.’
‘Your Tipdida and I packed our suitcases and went to Drakensberg; we enjoyed our stay there. Your Tipdida recovered well and he liked that place. In fact, he was so relaxed and enjoying that place, he invited his sister Lata and her husband Laxman. We four enjoyed about a month, when Your Tipdida fell sick again.’
‘In Drakensberg, we had no good doctors or hospitals; even all medicines were not readily available. Since your Tipdida used to maintain stocks of his own medicines, I was not aware of the exact stock levels of the medicines he needed. I was also not aware that he was not taking medicines regularly lest his stock should get exhausted.’
‘Finally, when I came to know about the status of his health and depleting stocks of medicines, we decided that we must go back to Chandernagore ASAP.’
‘Your Tipdida, Lata, Laxman and I packed our luggage, hired a taxi cab and set out for Chandernagore. It takes about 4 hours by car. After two hours of taxi ride, we fell hungry; we stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. We had a reasonably heavy meal plus tea and coffee.’
‘After a ride of half an hour or so after lunch, Your Tipdida said he was not feeling well, need to vomit and pass motions. He went to the nearby bushes, Laxman also did go. After a few minutes, they came back and the journey to Chandernagore was restarted.’
‘Half an hour after that your Tipdida said that he was not feeling well and he would take rest; he rested his head on my lap, and stretched his legs on the rear seat. As Lata is very thin, his feet were just touching Lata’s waist.’
John imagined a tired father resting his head on the lap of his daughter, as he was visualising how sick and tired Tipdida was seeking little relaxation in Bubudi’s lap.
‘We continued our journey to Chandernagore in this state, your Tipdida lying in the back seat resting on my lap. As he was not very well, we asked the taxi driver to go as fast as he could so that we might reach Chandernagore before the sunset.’
‘When Chandernagore is about an hour away, your Tipdida suddenly raised his head with a jerk, and kicked at Lata’s waist; then he threw his head on my lap and all breathing stopped.’
‘We asked the driver to stop the car; Laxman came from the front seat and tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail. I put some bottled water into his mouth; he could not drink at all, water dribbled from the side of his mouth.’
‘As we come to know your Tipdida was no more, we could not stop crying for the departed soul.’
‘Then the words came from the taxi-driver, — ‘If you want to get to Chandernagore, take the dead body off the car. I cannot drive with a dead person as a passenger. Better all of you get off here and pay me the fare you promised.’’
‘We stopped crying, we now needed to find some way to carry your Tipdida’s body to Chandernagore and cremate the body there. Laxman asked the driver to drive to the nearest hospital at Durgapur, where we would try to revive your Tipdida with medical help.’
‘The driver reluctantly agreed, and drove us to Durgapur Hospital. What could be done next? Laxman tried to lift your Tipdida’s body on his shoulder so as to take the body to the emergency department of the hospital, but he could not; rigour mortis had already set in; the body had become stiff and heavy.’
‘The person, who was living minutes ago, had now become a heavy burden, too heavy to be carried by any other person. Laxman walked alone to the emergency department of the hospital; he requested some officials there, begged and tipped whomever he could before two hospital staff came out with a stretcher.’
‘When these two staff reached our car, they declined to carry your Tipdida’s body. They said they would not carry a stiff dead body. We insisted that we could revive him, if he could get timely medical attention.’
‘We said, ‘Please help, we would revive him; if we can’t, we need to know from a doctor that he is dead, we need a death certificate then.’’
‘The hospital staff then carried your Tipdida’s body to the emergency department of the hospital. Laxman and Lata remained in the taxi cab so that it is not driven away; I travelled with your Tipdida’s body being carried on a stretcher. On reaching the hospital, I booked our request for immediate attention of an emergency surgeon.’
‘An hour later, one surgeon came to visit us. He gazed at your Tipdida’s body, and said, ‘We cannot admit any dead person here. This case had to be reported to the police, and none of you can leave till the police allows you to do so, the body also would be taken over by police and sent to the post mortem department.’’
‘Laxman and Lata are waiting for me in the car; I had no one to discuss our strategies — what could be done now? First I needed to know that your Tipdida’s body is irrevocably dead or not. If irrevocably dead, I needed to get a death certificate so that the body could be cremated and the last rites could be performed. If I let the police take over, it would take a long time — we would be stuck up, and the body could not be cremated. We won’t be able to follow the religious rites of our family; we could virtually do nothing but wait for the body to be released by the police.’
‘It occurred to me that your Tipdida’s paternal uncle Kaka was now at his Durgapur residence, we would go there and request for his help. I knew that Kaka did not like your Tipdida at all, though Tipdida is the son of his own elder brother.’
‘Still I begged to the hospital staff for carrying the stretcher back to the cab. I went back to our taxi driver and persuaded him to take us to Kaka’s residence at Durgapur. When we reached Kaka’s house, no stretcher was available. We tipped some local boys; two boys managed to carry the stiff body into Kaka’s lounge.’
‘Soon Kaka came out, when he realised what had happened, he became furious. He wanted me to leave at once and to take the body away from his house. In the mean time, the taxi driver had gone away with his car, and we had no means to carry the body somewhere else.’
‘We requested Kaka to call some local doctor, so that we could get a death certificate. Furious Kaka swore at me, — ‘you killed my nephew and you have to suffer for this. If you don’t take this body away, I would call the police and send you to the jail.’
‘When we were begging hard from Kaka, his son Rudra came out. He could easily realise what had happened; he did not offer to bring doctors in Kaka’s house; he promised to take us to Chandernagore in his own car, where we could get our known doctors.’
‘Laxman and Rudra carried your Tipdida’s body to Rudra’s car and Rudra drove us and your Tipdida’s body to Chandernagore.’
‘When we reached Chandernagore, I felt a bit at home. I wished I could ask your Tipdida to get up and get our regular doctor to our home. Alas! He would never rise to his feet again. My son Sibu, then 12-year old was not at home; I asked Lata to rest at the lounge beside the dead body of her brother; Laxman and I walked to the doctor’s chamber; I walked barefooted; as per the local custom a wife does not put shoes on when her husband is dead and the body is yet to be cremated.’
‘I begged the doctor to leave his chamber and come with us; we told him your Tipdida was at a critical stage and needed immediate attention so that something could be done.’
‘The doctor glanced at my bare feet, and asked — ‘is Tipdiman dead already?’’
‘Nervous as I was already, I felt I could not stand any more, I might have fallen on the floor when Laxman said — ‘She was in such a hurry, did not get any time to put something on.’
‘The doctor came to the lounge and looked at the stiff face of your Tipdida. He got hold of the blanket resting on your Tipdida’s chest and covered his face.’
‘When exactly did Tipdiman die? — the doctor asked’
‘About 3 hours ago, when we were on our way to Chandernagore — I said.’
‘Why didn’t you phone me before taking up this journey? An ambulance van should have been organised. — he said.’
‘Did he have any food on the way? Did he have all required medicines? — he said’
‘We had some food in a roadside restaurant. He did not have good stock of medicines, as no good pharmacies were available nearby. That is the main reason why we rushed before informing you. — I said.’
‘Not having appropriate medicines and food is often suicidal. It seems you helped him to commit a suicide — he said.’
‘However, you are always good friends to us and listened to my advice. I shall write a death certificate now; however there is a fee of 1000 bucks for this.’
‘1000 bucks was not much for Tipdida; we had always plenty of cash in our house. I was relieved that we could now bid good bye to your Tipdida instead of being harassed in the community.’
* * *
The newspapers, TV, radio — all local media of Port Victoria were vocal about the heart-rending, sensational news — an innocent wife Semona and her maid servant Kamli got murdered by the husband’s accomplice.
At the time of the incident, Semona’s engineer husband Abir was away to another city, assigned to a project. Abir’s mother, Sandy, lived in same house where Abir and Semona lived, but at the time of the incident she was away from home. Sandy escorted her granddaughter Kakali to a dance school near her brother — Prescott’s place. Kakali was, by the way, the daughter of the gynaecologist Sanghamitra, Sandy’s daughter. After dropping Kakali at the school she was spending time with Prescott and his wife. Sanghamitra’s house was very close to Abir’s, but far away from Prescott’s.
When Sandy left home, Semona and her 2-year old son Sibir were in their home. After 5 hours, Sandy returned; before going to home i.e. Abir-Semona’s place, she went to drop Kakali at Sanghamitra’s place, when she was astonished to find Sibir in Sanghamitra’s front yard. Sibir was playing alone in the front yard when no one else was at Sanghamitra’s home. Sandy left Kakali in their house and picked up Sibir from there and walked to their place i.e. Abir-Semona’s house. Something must have happened there; many neighbours crowded near the house door; a police car was parked in front of the house. Sandy was at-a-loss as she tried to force into the house; the people at the door jumped on her and said, ‘here’s the one who has killed these girls; arrest the murderer.’
Sandy looked inside the lounge, her daughter-in-law Semona was laid on the sofa; her throat and neck was soaked with blood; her eyes were open as if she was staring at Sandy. On the floor was lying Kamli, she was apparently hit on her chest, could be by a bullet or a sharp knife. Sandy’s neighbours pleaded that she must be the murderer; they have seen her on many occasions quarrelling with Semona and chasing her with a kitchen knife. The police arrested her for questioning. There was not much flaw in her alibi; she was indeed away at the time of the incident.
After interviewing some of the neighbours, the police ascertained that two young men aged around 30 entered the house. No revolver or knife was observed by them, but they have seen that the child was on the lap of one of these men when they went out.
When John had watched this clipping on the TV, he didn’t know who this Sandy was. Not long after this, John went to visit Adeline on his next trip to Chandernagore and was shocked to know this Sandy was Adeline’s own elder sister and the daughter of John’s Little Uncle and Little Auntie.
Adeline told John that the police have carried out lots of investigations into this incident of murder; they suspect Sandy’s son Abir was the culprit and he engaged two of his friends to kill Semona. Semona knew them as Abir’s friends, so she opened the doors to let them in. Kamli, the maid servant was in the house at that time; Semona asked Kamli to bring some snacks and cups of tea. Apparently Abir’s friends didn’t waste lot of time in assassinating Semona. As Semona sat on the sofa, one of these men jumped on her and held her shoulders firmly; the other man slit her throat with a knife. When she was bleeding heavily on the sofa and the knife was still being held in the hand of the man, entered Kamli with two plates of snacks. The men realised that they couldn’t fly away, moreover Kamli already knew these two men. The man who was grabbing Semona’s shoulder took his revolver and shot straight at the chest of Kamli. While coming out of the house, they marked Sibir was in the outer sunroom; one of them caressed his cheeks and took him on the shoulder. Apparently these men knew Sanghamitra’s place; they left Sibir there so that he could remain safe there.
‘What happened to Batidi?’ John asked as he used to call Sandy as Batidi.
‘Batidi was released on bail after police interrogation, but she couldn’t return to her place; her neighbours would let her stay there. They think Batidi would have killed Semona, unless she was murdered by her son Abir.’ — Adeline said.
‘Where is she staying now?’ John asked.
‘She is hiding in some hotel. She couldn’t stay with her daughter Sanghamitra, because her neighbour won’t let her stay there. Prescott i.e. Manu too didn’t let Batidi stay with him, lest some people should invade his place.’
‘I would like to talk to Batidi; she might need help.’ — Said John.
‘She has her solicitors to help her; don’t get yourself trapped during your short visit here.’ Adeline said, ‘We two sisters hardly talk to each other.’
John remembered that everyone used to praise Sandy, as she managed nicely in a small flat with her husband Addison after living luxurious childhood in her father’s enormous building. Sally had often showed Sandy as an example of ideal housewife, who cared for not so affluent Addison. John still thought, he would see Sandy and ask her why she couldn’t tolerate her daughter-in-law; did she want to get back her rich luxurious childhood days by extracting money from Semona? Did she derive any pleasure by exploiting Semona? She had a granddaughter from her daughter Sanghamitra; she had a son from her son Abir. Abir got a degree in Engineering and got a job in a reputed company; Sanghamitra got her degree in medicine and she is a specialist in gynaecology. Though her husband Addison died young, she managed to groom her children well in face of fierce competition of other well-to-do children. Yet she used his son Abir to exploit his wife. Abir had earlier divorced his first wife, because she didn’t have any issue in the first two years of their marriage; Semona gave birth to a son Sibir only after 10 months of her wedding with Abir; yet Sandy was not happy with her; Abir, too devoted to his mother, didn’t think Semona was a human being; he was prepared to butcher her to satisfy his mother Sandy. John thought people might not have discovered the other side of Abir, the murder suspect and Sandy, the monstrous mother-in-law. Were they at all aware of the presence of the divine in Semona? John still had the compassion to discover the divine in Sandy and Abir.
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