Tranquillity of Life

Happiness cannot be measured and varies in degree from person to person. The attractive lady looked at the mirror; and it reflected the same looks a decade ago, only circumstances have changed over the years. She applied the last touches to her makeup and glanced, “Was everything perfect for the occasion?” The mauve gown she wore, the purple lipstick matched, the cheekbones highlighted with correct shades of the blusher and her eyes with mascara was perfect for any man to go weak at the knees. Oh, she nailed it! The charming and vivacious girl was back in the form of a lady though many years have passed by; in between.  

From the morning the bed was still in disorder, the sleeping man looked like a slumped animal in hibernation. The house was cold and ghost-like, it has lost all its warmth and love of a home a long time ago. The maid nodded and acknowledged the instructions before she headed towards the car. The driver followed the same route which she travelled for the past one month. It was quite exhausting but worth the pain. The palpitation was building up, the months of persistent effort both physically and mentally was finally going to bear the fruit in today’s event.

Without glancing at the phone she took the call; as she knew who the caller was.

“All set for the grand occasion dear. I’m reliving those dreams which we envisioned ten years back.”

“Haha,” she laughed a little. This was all she could manage to deliver as her mind flew to those childhood memories of a rainy day. The rains confined them to indoor activities where they played artists and painted to their heart’s content, and displayed their treasured possessions on doors and windows as if an exhibition of high calibre was being held.

“Don’t dream any further, now it’s a reality. I’m also on my way, will reach soon. Meet you in a few minutes at the back entrance of the museum hall. Can’t wait to see you,” he hung up with a grin full of mischief.

The museum was humming with activities. The solo art show was scheduled for 2 days in the evening between 6 pm to 8 pm. She stepped out from the car and was pleasantly surprised to find the place quite crowded so early before the commencement of the event. She walked through the museum into the exhibition hall and stood in front of the back door. The security guard held the door open and smiled at the familiar face, which may turn into a celebrity tonight. She thanked him and entered the hall.

Everything looked perfect, the setting of the huge hall, the glow of lights with the accurate reflections on the paintings that hung on the white walls as background, the minimal floral decorations to give an artistic ambience, the pink curtains tied with the ribbons on both sides at the entrance, and the table with the perfect crystal and wine ready to be served to the distinguished guests. The gold plated stand with her name highlighted with the exhibition timings stood at the main entrance.

Looking around and heaving a sigh of satisfaction, she thought at last after a decade her dreams are coming true, her wishes are being fulfilled. She stood alone in the middle of the art museum hall, closed her eyes and took a deep breath – the ultimate moment she has always craved for, her own art show in one of the renowned art museums, the recognition of an artist.

The stalwarts from the art world would be coming at any moment, along with other dignitaries from various fields – sportsmen, film stars, musicians, socialites and also bureaucrats. Purposely the inaugural ceremony was kept low key to give it a subtle touch and so the ribbon-cutting ceremony would be conducted by the president of the charitable trust and organisation.

The tiptoeing sound diverted her attention towards the back door. He was wearing a tuxedo and walking towards her with the same swag. She still felt the same heartbeat, when she saw him.

He was always pertinent in displaying his emotions unabashedly. Holding the red roses and pecking on her cheeks, he whispered in her ears, “You’re simply ravishing, I’m still smitten. Congratulations!”

The same fragrance and the contagious charm were irresistible for her, but hearing other voices behind, she composed herself and murmured, “Thank you, glad you could make it from your busy schedule and hectic travels.”

The evening was a success, there were praises strewn around from intellectual critiques and positive reviews by the journalists. Her day was made except for the slight glitch of Mr De approaching a little late, but not unusual as per his standards. She was about to become jittery with the queries of his absence when he entered and was decent enough not only in his attire but in his behaviour also. He apologised to one and all for his late coming, obviously blaming the work pressure, which all knew was a farce; but obliged in front of him and suppressed a wry smile behind. He enjoyed the evening only for the drinks that were served and had no interest in the artistic display around. She was relieved at least that he played his part well, and acknowledged the opinion of others.  

The next and the final day passed off in the same vein as the first, except for Mr De. He had not turned up and the calls were unanswered. A nagging thought kept creeping in her mind but she tried to gel with the milieu and brushed it aside. The after event party was arranged by the organisers for a selected few friends and close associates. At the party, she had mixed emotions of relief and contentment. Elated at the prospects of her art, she gulped down a couple of drinks to rejuvenate her fatigue and uplift her spirit and self.

The mobile vibrated for the tenth time or more perhaps, she reluctantly dug into her bag to retrieve it. Disgustingly she thought that her life had no peace even in her tranquil moments. The mobile stopped ringing but her eyes were on the screen, and they widened at the messages. It was from the museum coordinator, she received the call this time at the first beep. “Hello Ma’m very urgent, please come to the museum immediately.”

“Why? What happ….?” Before she could complete the phone was disconnected. She tried several times but it was not answered.

“Any problem? Your face has ashened, it seems something serious. Suddenly, what has happened, who called you? You were quite happy for the past couple of days and even enjoying yourself at this party. I know you, come on tell me,” he insisted when he came back with the drinks. She looked at Pat with anxiety and fear, her lover from her school days.

They both rushed to the museum immediately. Pat held her hand and continuously tried to calm her that all would be fine, but they both understood that something terrible has befallen at this hour.

“Mrs. De?” Someone called from behind as they reached the museum premise.

“Yes?” she replied with a questioning look.

“Please can you follow me?” the police officer ushered her.

She rushed behind the officer, a flurry of questions blurting out towards him, who maintained his calm and composure throughout. They both entered the museum and sat in one corner of the hall. The officer said, “Mrs. De, we’re sorry, we understand the sensitivity of the situation, but we’ve to abide by our duty and follow the book of the law.”

Her mind was completely blank and it was a deadly moment. The voice of the officer sounded like a monologue at a far off distance, “We understand Mrs. De that your husband, Mr. De, unfortunately, has expired a while ago over here, but we’ve to complete our formalities of questioning as he was alone in this museum hall, and hence we’ve been intimated for further investigations. Kindly cooperate with us.”

Pat arrived at that juncture after he made the respective calls to his contacts. He intervened, “Is it necessary to question her now, at this point of time?”

The officer replied that the basic information was required.

After the initial introductory questions, the officer continued, “Mrs. De, do you have any idea, why your husband was here after the show? Did he come in earlier and if yes then what time was it?”

“No, my husband didn’t turn up today during the exhibition timing.”

“Did he have any plans to attend the exhibition today?”

“Yes, my husband said that he’ll be coming during the exhibition time but didn’t turn up. I called him up to find out but he didn’t take my call, so I left it as I thought he might be busy.”

“But he was at home when you left and you didn’t call at home to find out when he didn’t turn up?” the officer probed.

Pat interrupted, “I think, she already told you the fact.”

“Hmmmm, ok,” the officer continued, “Do you suspect any foul play of anyone?”

Looking at her face, the officer immediately asked a concurrent question, “Does your husband have any medical history of heart disease or any other ailments?”

“Nothing I know of….,” she trailed when the officer said, “Mrs. De, “It’ll be helpful if you cooperate with us and assist us by sharing any information that’ll help in the case. We’ve heard that the relation between both of you was strained……”

The senior officer who entered the room interrupted the presiding officer and asked him to wrap it up. He quickly gathered his notes and left the place.

The senior officer explained the entire scenario in brief, “Mrs. De, I sincerely apologise for your loss, but we were called by the museum coordinator. The doctor was also called by him, who after checking Mr. De, unfortunately, pronounced him dead, but didn’t provide any certificate, as the death happened in the absence of any person under unnatural circumstances. We’ve to take the body to the hospital, where after post mortem the cause of the death can be confirmed; whether it was due to natural or unnatural causes. We’ve also collected today’s video recordings of this premise from the museum office. We’ll keep you posted of the proceedings and contact you as and when required.”

Pat thanked the senior officer. Before leaving he cautioned, “Please do not touch or take any article from here. We’ve sealed this place till the investigation is on.”

Pat gently whispered, “I’ll accompany you to your home, it’s quite late at night.”

“Let me be here around for some time,” she calmly replied.

The museum was nearly empty except for a couple of policemen and security guards outside. The museum coordinator also left after a few words of condolences to her. She thanked him for all his assistance and apologised for the inconvenience caused to him due to this unfortunate incident.

She sat at the porch of the museum and stared at the full moon. She thought there was a resemblance between both, marks that couldn’t be erased either from the moon or from her life. Every moment of her life was a struggle which she failed every time. Her strict father didn’t approve the love of childhood sweethearts. Pat and Kat were their nicknames which everyone called lovingly. The moment her father was notified of the affair, he had planned otherwise. The marriage was fixed within a month; with an established businessman belonging to a renowned family and held the following day after she wrote the last paper of her final graduation exams. Her mother’s feeble protests fell on her father’s deaf ears.   

The security guard walked up to her and said, “Madam, are you alright?”

Engrossed in her thought process she jumped up scared hearing an unknown voice, then nodded her head slowly.

The security guard continued, “Madam, I’ve seen today Sir has come in late. I was about to lock the door of the exhibition hall after you all had left, when Sir entered the hall. He enquired about you, I informed him that the exhibition was over and you’ve already left. He asked me not to lock the door as he wanted to check out the paintings. I was reluctant but had to agree because I knew he was your husband, otherwise I wouldn’t have allowed anyone else.”

“What happened after that?” she became curious and impatient.

“He entered, looked around and went straight to the table where the drinks were kept and poured a drink. He asked me not to switch on the lights as he could see by the night lamps which were automatically on. I peeped inside the hall after some time and saw him drinking. There was no one around so I closed the door half shut and stood outside”.

Pat came back with two cups of steaming hot coffee. “Have this, it’s quite refreshing,” he said sipping his coffee.

Kat looked at him longingly, took the coffee and asked the security guard to continue.

“It was more than half an hour maybe and Sir has not come out, so I was feeling restless and was about to enter, when the coordinator while leaving the museum; noticed the unlocked door and asked me. I informed him and we both went inside and found Sir lying on the ground. He immediately ran to the opposite clinic for the doctor and asked me to call the other guards from the museum. The policeman also asked me many questions and I explained to him exactly what happened.”

The guard left soon after Kat thanked him and paid him some tips. Pat put his arm around her shoulders and said, “This too shall pass.”

Kat replied with tear-filled eyes, “Tomorrow’s headlines, – Death of Mr. De under suspicious conditions, Mrs. De busy partying away after husband’s suspicious death.”

“Don’t bother Kat, the world is opinionated, you can’t stop it so ignore it. No one knows and has survived the truth more than you. Live your life.”

Kat continued, “You were always there next to me Pat when I needed someone the most during my struggles. I was shattered by my father’s demise but you took care of not only my mother but also ensured that I didn’t face any hassles. Today, this solo art event of mine wouldn’t have taken place without your extensive support.”

Sipping the coffee she felt better; and asked calmly, “Do you know anything about my personal life? My husband with his explicit good image in the outside world behaved like a beast at home. After the initial few months, his original self came to the fore. He was suspicious about my nature, and became dominating, egoistic, insensitive and inconsiderate. Over the years his business took a downhill and his drinking spree went uphill. My parents gulped the bitter pills of their daughter’s humiliation.”

“You needn’t explain to me any further, I felt every pain you went through the past ten years. Your eyes spoke more than the words that flowed through your mouth. My only thoughts were to bring you out of your shell and to revive your painting skills, the love of your life where you find joy and solace.” Pat hugged her tightly.

**********

Next year Kat stood in the same museum hall smiling and greeting the guests for her art exhibition. Her mother was beaming and brimming with pride at the success of her daughter. She is a renowned and busy artist now with shows all around the famous art galleries along with other artists.

Pat observed her from a distance, she had serenity in her eyes now, the tornado has settled at last. He remembered the day her father called him and apologized for not accepting him in his daughter’s life.

He pleaded Pat holding his hands, “Take care of my daughter always. She is very lonely. When I’m gone she’ll have no one to look after her. Give me your word so that I can die in peace.”

The lights were turned off after the exhibition, she reflected in the dim night lamps that exactly one year has passed and it seemed it was just a while ago. Her husband had passed away suddenly in this same hall. He had suffered a severe cardiac arrest on that fateful night and that brought the closure to all assumptions and allegations. She had to run from pillar to post for various paper works to be completed but the fruits of labor was always sweet. Definitely Pat was always assisting her in times of crisis or otherwise to lend support and cheer her up.

She walked outside the museum; there was a strong wind blowing across her face carrying the sweet smell of the intoxicating jasmine. She looked up and thought about her father. She missed him at today’s event, but she knew that from somewhere up there he was watching over her and blessing her to move forward. She has at last found her long lost tranquillity.  
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Alipi Das

Alipi Das is a voracious reader and enjoys both reading and writing. She is inclined more towards classics, she also loves painting, traveling and swimming.

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