Living In The Present – Short Story
Smita and Juhi had been sharing a single apartment as paying guests. Both were working in different companies and both lived away from home. Smita was a bit older to Juhi but since they had been sharing the same room for 3 years, they had become best of friends. Both went shopping together, cooked special meals for each other, went for movies, looked after each other when one of them was sick – basically both gelled pretty well.
Poila Boishak (Bengali New Year) was coming so Smita asked Juhi if she wanted to go shopping to New Market.
Smita – This Saturday if you are free, would you like to go to New Market? We could do some shopping, I wanted to pick up few things since I will be visiting my family in May.
Both Smita and Juhi were having breakfast and Juhi was mesmerised with her phone.
Smita – Hello! Are you even listening – want to go shopping?
Juhi was not responding at all – it was as if she had gone deaf!
Smita – Whose messages are you checking out? Dinesh’s?
Juhi suddenly looked up! She was taken aback by this remark.
Juhi – Well…are you checking my messages or what? How did you know who I was chatting with?!
Smita – (smiling) you get that silly expression on your face whenever you chat with that fellow.
Juhi – hmm…someone’s been observing me very closely huh!
Smita – No need to observe closely my dear – it’s quite blatant – the changes that came over you …for the last 2 months you have been behaving differently!
Juhi – Its love I guess – changes the world (she chuckled)
Smita – Love? Seriously? But Dinesh is married and a father of 2 teenagers! You couldn’t find a bachelor for yourself?
Juhi – Sings a Hindi film song – Na umra ki seema ho, na janm ka ho bandhan – (love is blind, doesn’t see age or other details)
Smita – My Gawd! You are damn serious about him it seems! But why are you heading straight for hell!?
Juhi – Have you ever loved? Its heavenly – you won’t understand – since you have never been in love!
Smita – I understand that love must be great and glorious – it makes the world go round – but what you are doing is certainly neither great nor glorious -its downright cheap and demeaning!
Juhi – really!? You have done a Phd. or written some thesis on love?
Smita – Not really – just 2 months ago the same Dinesh was a cheapster who stared at you all the time, touched you inappropriately, brushed past you purposely, flirts and proposes almost every girl in the office – all this you only told me – but suddenly all this changed – how come?
Juhi – breaks into a film song again ‘ na na karte pyaar tumhi se kar baithe’ ( wanted to refuse your love proposal – but eventually gave in)
Smita – You are really finding it funny huh!? Don’t you see the risks you are taking – he is a married man – he is just using you..
Juhi (cutting her short) – enough Smita! I have heard what you had to say! Remember you are just my room mate – not my parent that I will be answerable to all your queries or listen to your dumb backdated suggestions – ok!?
Smita – I am just your well wisher Juhi and you know as well as I do that what you are doing is wrong.
Juhi – Why? What’s wrong about being in love?
Smita – Be in love with someone eligible damnit – not a married man with a family! You are breaking into a family – why would you do that?
Juhi – I am not breaking into any family – he approached me, he proposed to me – I did not go after him!
Smita – Have you gone insane!? He is a flirtatious male who tries his luck with every female he sets his eyes on – this is something that you only told me about him – and now you are so in love with that same Beep $%*@#?
Juhi – mind your language – don’t call him names – no one has given you the right to do so!
Smita – Oh ! my – so you are his defense attorney as well! Okay tell me – what future do you have with him? He will divorce his wife and leave his kids for you?
Juhi – Listen once and for all – this is my life and I live in the present. I accept life as it presents itself to me, right now I am enjoying with Dinesh and it is none of your or anyone else’s business to interfere with my life – get it?
Saying this Juhi gets up and goes inside her room, banging the door behind her.
Smita understood very well about why Juhi got so easily enamoured with sleazy Dinesh! Juhi belonged to a small town and was very miserly by nature. Although both of them had been sharing the apartment, but it was Smita who got the groceries most of the time. Juhi was shameless enough to polish off her fruits, biscuits and hardly spent and when she did spend, she used to repeat 10 times that she had bought the week’s groceries and she had spent so much etc.! Dinesh probably had studied her well and he had immediately started gifting her things that she would never buy for herself! 2 weeks ago, Smita saw her using an expensive smartphone – the same girl who had been using her brother’s broken cello-taped cell phone for 2 years was suddenly taking about branded sportswear and dresses! Smita could make out that she had probably found some rich boyfriend but she was shocked when she came to know that it was Dinesh, her boss, who was about 16 years older to her!
Slowly and gradually Smita & Juhi found themselves alienating from each other.
Smita – I will be gone for 2 weeks…I am going home.
Juhi – Oh! Ok, when are you leaving?
Smita – Tomorrow morning. I have paid the maid – half the salary from my side – please give her half from your side. (Smita usually gave the maid her full salary -thinking that Juhi will pay her later – but that seldom happened! Juhi always bought some groceries and adjusted it with the maid’s salary)
Juhi – Ok….well, I may be shifting to another apartment. So you may not see me when you come back. (Dinesh was looking for an apartment for her in a posh locality)
Smita – really? You should have told me earlier! When do you intend leaving?
Juhi – Soon…very soon, I will let you know. (She responded ambiguously)
Smita – Whatever, give the keys to the Landlord then…and lock the room well before you go.
Juhi – Yes, of course I will.
Smita left the next morning.
Karan, Dinesh’s brother in law, had been stalking Juhi for 2 weeks now. Dinesh’s wife had told him about her husband’s new muse and the fact that he was spending money like water on his new concubine. She just wanted Juhi out of his life.
Karan observed that Juhi used to go for morning jogging (something she had recently added to her daily routine – after Dinesh had bought her new sportwear and expensive sports shoes – and also she wanted to look slim and sexy for him after all) so he decided with one of his rash & ruthless biker friends that at 6 am, when the roads are more or less empty, he just had to manipulate an accident, push her, so that she falls, just breaks 2-3 of her bones, loses her job and gets lost to her small town where she belonged.
Biker friend agreed. Juhi went for her usually morning walk. She met with a ‘well arranged’ accident. She managed to break parts of her lower backbone, left knee and right elbow. The biker sped off. No one was there to catch the biker. She laid there for 20 mins, a pervert milkman saw her and took his chance to molest her a bit (the milkman, who lived in a slum, was an avid porn film watcher and it was always his fantasy to touch and feel some such modern female) when some morning walkers came rushing to help her. The milkman ran away.
She got admitted in the hospital. Her parents were called. The cops came and asked her if she had any enemies because the accident was clearly a ‘created’ one and not a random accident. This was caught in one of the road side CCTVs. She had got a threat call from Dinesh’s wife – but she could not divulge that since the ‘blind and backdated’ society will not support her if they came to know that she was breaking into a family – plus her parents were there, so she could not tell the truth!
In the meantime, Karan dropped the news to Dinesh that Juhi had met with an accident. He added, with confidence, that such accidents can happen to anyone, anytime. Dinesh got afraid and did not even pay Juhi a visit to the hospital.
Juhi’s parents approached the office to pay for her hospital expenses. They said that since she was not permanent, so they can just pay 2 month’s salary in advance. But that’s all. They were not liable to pay any more. Her miserly parents were given Rs. 30,000/- immediately. They decided to take Juhi back to their small town where their family doctor, a quack Ayurvedic physician, would heal her. She screamed and shouted and demanded that she stayed in the city hospital, but her parents refused to keep her in the expensive hospital.
Father – We got only Rs.30k from your office. If we keep you here, the money will be spent in 2 days only. Where will we get money to pay the hospital then?
Juhi – You don’t have any money for emergencies?
Father – No we don’t! As if you don’t know about our financial condition.
She searched for her cell phone – but unfortunately, the milkman had run away with it! She tried to call Dinesh frantically – after all, he was the true love of her life -he will certainly make arrangements to keep her in the city hospital. Dinesh had blocked her number. He was obviously not going a spend a dime for a small town girl with broken bones !
Juhi called Smita and told her of her pathetic condition. She even said that probably Dinesh’s wife was responsible for the accident.
Smita was still at her home town. She felt sad for her but she could not do much for her!
Smita – Well, if you doubt that Dinesh’s wife is responsible for the accident, why don’t you tell the cops?
Juhi – Are you crazy? And spill the beans?
Smita – Oh! I see….so what do want me to do?
Juhi – for couple of months, after I return, will you let me stay in the room – maybe I will not be able to pay the room rent, but when I get a job, I will repay you in full.
Smita – hmmm…well my marriage got fixed actually – so I am leaving the room myself, I am shifting to Bangalore next month – so I can’t really help you in any way Juhi – I am sorry. But don’t worry, I am sure you will get over this traumatic phase of your life – you live in the present – you accept life as it comes to you – right? Only thing is remember to make the right move or take the decision in your present so that your future is smooth. This is all that I can say!
Juhi had no one else to approach! She left for her small town in a rickety ambulance. It took her months to be able to stand with the help of a crutch. She took up a job in the local Primary School in exchange of a measly salary. All her dreams to make it big in a big city came crashing down. All she did was curse Dinesh with every breath she took.
She lived in the present – A pathetic present that she created for herself in the past.