Chandan stopped at the intersection and waited for the pedestrians’ signal to turn green. He looked at his watch – 8.40 am. Time was in his favour. “No need to run”, he thought. Traffic at the Flury’s intersection was always busy at any time of day. It happened all of a sudden. A vehicle screeched to a halt right after crossing the intersection, the driver got off and ran to the passenger side. The passenger stumbled to the pavement, clutching his chest. Chandan, being the nearest to the person, rushed to him and helped him to sit against the lamp-post.
“My tablets! Please, my tablets!” The passenger gasped. He was sweating profusely. Chandan frantically searched the man’s pockets as the driver put a cushion from the car behind the man’s head. Chandan found a bottle in the man’s suit pocket and put two tablets in his mouth. After chewing for a while, the man’s condition seemed to improve as he smiled.
The traffic police had already alerted an ambulance and Chandan helped the man into the vehicle. The Chandan looked at his watch, but the man insisted that he should go along with him. Reluctantly, Chandan got into the ambulance. The driver followed in the car. The ambulance took them to Belle Vue Nursing Home in Minto Park, where the man was treated in the emergency ward. The police were quick in their actions and all formalities were completed with such urgency that even Chandan was surprised. “Who is he?” he asked the driver. “Don’t you watch television? He is Srikanta Kundu – the biggest real estate magnate in the State.” Chandan blew a whistle – “no wonder.”
After 2 hours, Chandan was allowed inside the private room. Srikanta Kundu was sitting in bed with saline dripping into his veins. He smiled at Chandan and pointed to a chair by the bed. Once Chandan sat down, the man spoke, “Thank you” He looked away. “I don’t say that a lot. It feels nice.” Looking back at Chandan, he said “By now, you would have known who I am.”
Chandan replied with a straight face – “Yes I know who you are”. Before he could speak further, the door suddenly opened and a middle-aged lady and a young girl ran into the room. “Baba, are you all-right? We rushed here from the airport directly on hearing about you,” wailed the young girl, tears running down her eyes. The middle-aged lady spoke with controlled emotion “Jiya, doctor has confirmed that there is nothing to worry. Baba can be discharged immediately.” “Thanks to this young man,” said Srikanta Kundu, “if he was not there…” “Baba, don’t say bad things please. I cannot live without you.” Jiya was crying uncontrollably.
Chandan got up and bid them goodbye. Srikanta Kundu gave him his personal card and told him to come over on Saturday 6pm to which he agreed. It was almost lunch time now and Chandan had to mark a half day leave at office.
The bungalow on Judges Court Road loomed in front of him. Chandan had never seen such a big house in his life other than in films. He was escorted by a staff to the garden where Srikanta Kundu and his family were having tea.
“Ah, the young Chandan Banerjee, right on time, I see.” exclaimed Srikanta Kundu as he invited Chandan with a cup of tea. After a brief introduction and pleasantries, Jiya and Shilpi Kundu (mother) excused themselves, leaving the two alone.
“So Chandan” began Srikanta Kundu, “you are a chartered accountant, eh? Then why are you working for someone else? You can very well start your own firm. That’s the order of the day. Become your own master and give employment to the unemployed. That’s what I do daily. I employ thousands of workers in my construction business. But I could very well use your services, if you agree.” He pushed a paper across the table to Chandan. “Think about it and let me know.”
Chandan could hardly believe what he was reading. “Sir, this… what is this?”
“As I said, think about it and let me know, young man”. He put his hand on Chandan’s shoulder as they got up and started to walk in the sprawling lawns. “I know all about your background, your struggles and your capabilities. I can recognise a diamond when I see one and I am looking at one. I will help you to set up your office. Leave everything to me. Just concentrate on your passion. Discuss with your parents and give me the good news.”
Chandan, a bit downcast, replied “Sir, Father passed away 5 years ago. I have only my mother now. I will discuss with her and let you know by tomorrow.”
On his way out, Chandan saw Jiya standing beside the entrance to the garden. “Hi, I am Satavisha, Jiya is my dak naam.” Extending her hand, she said “Thank you for saving my father that day”. Chandan, with a shy smile, took her hand and replied “I just did my duty as a citizen”. She smiled back, letting go of his hand slowly. Chandan felt a pinch in his heart.
Back home, Chandan narrated the events and Mr. Kundu’s offer to his mother. Shyamoli Devi glared at Chandan – “do not forget your goal, khoka, you should not be distracted by his daughter.”
Chandan immediately became serious – “don’t worry Maa, I will never forget what he did to Baba. I will not rest till I expose that man and put him in jail. But to collect the evidence, I have to enter his house and Jiya is the only way.”
The next day, Chandan informed Srikanta Kundu of his decision to join him and submitted his resignation immediately. He would have to serve 30-day notice period as per terms of his employment to which Srikanta Kundu agreed, but asked Chandan to come home every Saturday to learn about his business. As Chandan walked towards the gate after a gruelling 1st Saturday, Satavisha came up to him.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” her hands touched Chandan’s arm as she got near him.
“Nothing much” he replied. Chandan was clearly stammering and Satavisha let go a smile, “Let’s meet for lunch tomorrow. 1pm at Mainland China then?” As soon as Chandan said ok, Satavisha leaned forward and kissed his cheeks. “I like you” she said, covered her face and ran back into the house. Chandan had that smile on his face as he clicked his feet at the bus-stand.
As the days passed into months, Chandan got a firm grip of the business run by Srikanta Kundu. His intelligence and tact were put to test many times, but Chandan always had his paperwork ready and won at each and every hurdle. After a year passed, Srikanta Kundu gifted Chandan 2 keys – one for his brand-new Hyundai Sonata and another of a posh 3-bedroom flat in New Alipore. On the other hand, his relationship with Satavisha grew more intimate by the passing days. Satavisha made sure that she and Chandan met only on Sundays when her father would not disturb him. She even met Chandan’s mother one day in the market and helped her bringing her load of vegetables home. Satavisha had become “a very good girl” to Shyamali Devi in a short period of time.
“Avenge me son, that cheat should not destroy any other family like he destroyed ours”. His father’s last words rang out in Chandan’s memory as he waited for Satavisha at Millennium Park off the Hooghly river. The sun was about to set and he planned to start the 2nd phase of his plan. Satavisha came up to him, at exactly 5pm. She was dressed in a blue embroidered salwar kameez and Chandan found himself staring at her speechless. With a snap of her fingers on his face Satavisha exclaimed “Hey, what are you staring at?” Chandan blinked and replied with a straight face, “Whenever I see you, I am always lost in your beauty”. As their eyes locked, Chandan took her hand and both started walking along the riverside park, the silence between them saying everything. As the sun started to set, he asked her the magical question “Satavisha, will you marry me?” Satavisha gasped, she literally jumped onto Chandan’s shoulders and started shouting at the top of her voice “Yes, yes, yes”.
It was close to 10pm, when Chandan drove into the Kundu mansion. Srikanta Kundu was waiting for them. Both Chandan and Satavisha got down, looked at each other, fearing the worst.
“So, this is your plan, eh? You think you can win my trust and then take over all my property by fooling my dear daughter? Srikanta Kundu thundered as he charged at Chandan.
“Baba, it is not like that” pleaded Satavisha. “Please trust me, he wants to marry me, Baba, and he does not want any of your property. He will continue as your employee and I will be his wife at his house”.
“Impossible!” he screamed at Chandan. My son-in-law will inherit my business otherwise you are not eligible.”
Chandan was stunned. Srikanta Kundu was smiling at him. Satavisha was ecstatic and hugged her father – “Baba, I love you so much. Thank you, thank you, you are the best father one can have.” Srikanta Kundu turned to Chandan – “take good care of her, ok? Now go home, it is already very late. We will discuss other matters later.”
Chandan was elated and, as he narrated the events to a Shyamoli Devi, he could see a sense of guilt seeping into her face. “What are you worried about, Maa? We are so close to our goal. Already I have collected half the evidence against Srikanta Kundu from the office. The other documents must be there in his house. I am confident that we can prove his crime in court. He will pay for his crimes.”
Shyamoli Devi replied “what price Satavisha have to pay for this? Does she know? What will go through her when she realises that all this was only part of your plan to punish her father? She is a good girl, you know.” Chandan waved her comment away – “Maa, our 1st aim is to avenge baba’s death, and if anyone comes in the way, I don’t care” and he walked away to his room.
Chandan’s thorn, to the final set of evidence, was Rakhal Babu – Srikanta Kundu’s most trusted advisor – his right-hand man. Nothing escaped Rakhal Babu – be it a bribe to a politician, threatening bereaved families from testifying against his boss, a woman to be set up for blackmail, documents to be cleared by Govt. offices – everything was handled by Rakhal Babu. Srikanta Kundu just had to say those magical words – “Rakhal Babu, ektu dekhe neen” – and the job was done. So attached he was, that he was put up in an outhouse at the far end of the Kundu mansion so that he can be called anytime. Chandan had to go deep into the accounts to bring out something which could be done by only a man of his calibre.
3 months later, Rakhal Babu entered his master’s chamber on being summoned. Chandan was sitting on the 3-seater sofa with a file. Srikanta Kundu stopped pacing up and down the chamber and shouted “Rakhal Babu, was there anything which I missed giving you? I gave you everything, whatever you asked for, was yours. In return, I expected your loyalty, but you took such an advantage?” He threw the file containing some papers pinned to it at Rakhal Babu. Seeing the contents, Rakhal Babu, first scowled at Chandan, and immediately went down his knees – “Babu, please forgive me, I had a bad habit of betting on horses and I lost big time. I did not know how to repay my debt. After that 1st time, I could not stop myself. Please forgive me, Babu, I served you for all these years”. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he tried to catch Srikanta Kundu’s feet, but he moved away. “Rakhal Babu, you have served me well, so I will spare your life. Go away and never show your face to me again.”
Their marriage date was fixed for December 14th. Chandan had, now, got full access to the Kundu mansion and all his offices and sites. He gathered enough evidence which could prove beyond doubt that Srikanta Kundu had used low-quality material to construct Dreamland Apartments – a “supposed to be” dream home for middle-class population, which crashed down on the residents one fateful night and killed many, which included his father. Due to his clout in political circles, Srikanta Kundu was let off since “there was no proof” and the cause was put as faulty drainage system by the municipal corporation, the latter being controlled by the opposition political party.
“Maa, the time has come. We can approach the court to re-open the case. We have enough evidence now to indict Srikanta Kundu for cheating, fraud and intentional murder” he said pointing at his suitcase full of documents he had collected till now.
Shyamoli Devi looked concerned. “Be careful, khoka. These people are dangerous. Keep an eye out wherever you go.” “Don’t worry Maa, I told Satavisha to accompany me. I told her that I have to go to court for a case and then we can go for lunch. She will wait in the car while I will enter the court and file the case. No one can touch me when I am with her and no one will dare to do anything inside court.”. As he lay down in bed, Chandan re-thought all his plans. They seemed full proof. “Once that murderer is in jail, I will ask Jiya for forgiveness. Hope she will understand why I did this”, he thought to himself.
The next morning, Satavisha came to Chandan’s house, touched Shyamali Devi’s feet for blessings and said to Chandan – “Today, let me drive, you are going to court, you should be relaxed.” On the way, she stopped at a medical shop and came out after 15 minutes. “Hope you are ok?” Chandan asked as Satavisha buckled her seat-belt. “It is for Baba” was all she replied. After crossing the Majerhat Flyover, Satavisha, suddenly took a left turn into Remount Road. Chandan, looked at her and asked “Arey, why have you turned here? We are going to High Court, na? Take the right here. I don’t want to be late.”
“Don’t worry, Chandan Banerjee, you are going to the right place” – her voice completely spooked Chandan for a moment and he was at a loss for words. “What… what do you mean? Where are we going?” he stammered. “You will see” replied Satavisha. “In the meantime, sit tight and don’t try anything stupid. If we don’t reach the place by next 10 minutes, your mother will be harmed.” Chandan was sat in disbelief as Satavisha entered a deserted compound.
The place seemed to be a storehouse for food-grains. The structures were at least 100 years old and seemed like they would fall apart anytime. As they reached the central open area, Chandan saw Srikanta Kundu standing beside an elderly lady tied to a chair. “Maa!!” he screamed as he got out of his car. “What are you doing to her? Let her go! What is the meaning of all this?” Satavisha took out a 9mm automatic as she got out, took aim at Shyamali Devi. Chandan started screaming “No, don’t. please tell me what is happening. What did I do to deserve this? I love you, Satavisha.”
“Love? Tch, tch.” She laughed as she came close to Chandan, her gun constantly aimed at Shyamali Devi. “Oh Chandan, you are so innocent – men like you always melt at my good looks and never think I can do this”. BANG!! The bullet came out from the back of her head and Shyamali Devi sat motionless, her head resting on the backrest of the chair. “Maa!!” screamed Chandan as he ran towards his mother. “Why Satavisha? Why?”
Satavisha joined her father, her gun now aimed at Chandan, “You remember the day when you came to our house, Chandan, what did my father tell you, after my mother and I left you two alone?” Both father and daughter laughed. It was a cynical laugh that echoed across the walls of the compound and rang his ears so hard.
Then it dawned on him. He always thought that he was the ring-master, but only now he realised that he was being played all along. Srikanta Kundu finally spoke, “Sorry Chandan, this is where we separate.” He turned to Satavisha “Do it.” The shot was instantaneous.
Satavisha had investigated Chandan immediately after the Park Street incident. She got her driver killed in a freak road accident after she came to know that he had connived with Chandan to orchestrate that event on Park Street. She had also found out that Chandan’s father had died on that fateful day in Dreamland Apartments and realised that he was out for revenge. She seduced him into falling in love & got close to his mother also, so that he would not suspect her of anything. Everything was planned and executed perfectly.
“What do you want to do with the suitcase and the bodies?” she asked.
“I don’t have to tell you that.” Srikanta Kundu lit his pipe and walked away. Satavisha hauled both bodies into the car, took out the suitcase and set the car on fire. As she got into her father’s car, she cast a look at the burning vehicle. “What are you looking at? Don’t tell me you were actually in love”.
“He was good to me”. Satavisha sighed. “Pity”.
The suitcase would be kept safely in the newly constructed vault in Kundu mansion.
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