“Why am I sleeping on the logs.” Richa thought to herself. “Oh God, it is hot here. Vijay must have turned the AC off like always”. She said sweating. Beads of sweat ran down her forehead. She slowly opened her eyes.
“Wow, Mom and Dad are here. When did they arrive? Richa was annoyed that they both had refused to visit her on her birthday. They must have planned a prank on me just to cheer me up. They often did that to tease her.
She could see her son, Vinay standing beside his grandparents. She was filled with joy to see him. “Where is Isha?” Her daughter was not there. “Isha cannot stay without me. Where is she? I must attend to her”.
Richa then saw some familiar faces around her. She was immediately embarrassed to be lying like that in front of them. Mr Kapoor, her neighbour was there. Mr Khan, her boss was standing there. The landlord and even her dance teacher, Swarajji were there. Richa had recently joined his classes to learn kathak which was her dream. She enjoyed dancing.
Her eyes searched for Vijay “Where is he when I need him?”. She tried to get up but felt heavy like someone had tied her down.
“There…There he is, Vijay, Vijay please help me to sit up, please. What is the matter with you? What is all this?”
She got no answer from him. She observed him closely. Vijay looked sad. But those eyes. They looked different. Sad but happy, satisfied but scared. Dull but alert, gloomy but with a twinkle that only a few people could recognize. Richa was now utterly confused. She had never seen Vijay like that.
She suddenly felt hot. Richa realized she was sweating. She could feel her feet burning as if they were on fire. She looked down, trying to get up. Her feet were on fire. She saw the light in Vijay’s hand. He was about to set her on fire, but why? How?
“Mom, Dad help! Mr Kapoor, can you hear me? Please stop Vijay. He is going to burn me!” Richa screamed but to no avail. Instead, everyone flocked to Vijay and started consoling him. “What is going on here.”
That look in his eyes. She remembered her birthday night. The party, the cake, the drinks, the argument and then the fight. A sudden push had landed her head on the kitchen platform. Vijay has not helped her. He had watched her fall.
You deserve this, he had said looking at her bleeding to death.
Why? What had I done to deserve this?
She then saw Uma standing beside Vijay as if supporting him emotionally. Uma was there too. That night. That fateful night. Was it planned?
“It is time sir, please light the pyre,” the pandit said.
Richa saw Vijay setting her ablaze. For others present there, Vijay had just set fire to Richa’s body. For Richa, her dreams, soul, life, and future were set ablaze.
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