She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…
Priya and Kingshuk are happily married upwardly mobile couple, or it seemed so to the outside world.
Priya Tripathi had met Kingshuk Dutt at a function organised by the media giants StarPlus. After 4 months of courtship, mainly of hanging out every evening at some café or bar or plain n simple dhaba, Kingshuk had gathered the courage to propose to her. Priya’s ‘Yes’ was not immediate because of their diverse background although both are born and brought up in the cosmopolitan Delhi. Priya belongs to a Brahmin family from UP while Kingshuk is a Kayasth from undivided Bengal. Financially too Priya’s family were well to do while Kingshuk was practically an orphan, staying with his sister and brother-in-law after the demise of his parents in a short span of six months. However, both are working in good reputed organisations, Priya in an Advertising Agency as Account Supervisor and Kingshuk as Assistant Marketing Manager in a FMCG, and their career is moving up smoothly.
Kingshuk had already broken the news to his sister, Rina and she was happy and apprehensive both at the same time. Happy because her little bro is finally settling down at the ripe age of 30 years and apprehensive because of Priya’s background which so different from theirs. Rina broached the subject to her husband Aditya after dinner in the privacy of their bedroom. Aditya said laughing loudly, “Is it 100% this time or 50% like all his previous 50 girlfriends?” Rina admonished her husband for making fun of his brother’s failed romantic escapades in the past and said, “No this time it seems both are serious about it but Priya has to convince her family.” Aditya said, “Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the time being. I will speak to Babai in the morning.”
Priya had expected a strong opposition from her male family members, father and brother but surprisingly, the objection came from her mother whom she had confided in the first place. Parvati Tripathi, her mother, even dared her to mention it her father. But Priya as a headstrong but darling of her father broached the topic to her father while jogging with him in the Lodi Gardens. Her father did not react immediately but gave her a puzzled smile while continuing to jog.
Later, over breakfast he asked his wife, “Are you aware of Priya’s decision?” Priya’s brother, Rajeev was also at the table but not aware of the latest development in the family. “Yes, she told me last night and I have already admonished her and said forget about it.” Parvati Tripathi replied sternly. Umashankar Tripathi looked at her wife and said, “I didn’t ask for your decision, Priya is 25 years old and can take her own decision.” Rajeev looked at his parents and Priya with a dumb expression hoping someone will throw some light. Finally, Umashankar told his son, “Priya has decided to tie the knot with a boy of her own choice and he is a Bengali chap by the name of Kingshuk Dutt. Do you have any comments; if so then say it now as I would like to meet this guy before I go for my overseas tour.” Though, Rajiv was his mother’s boy and always supported her in any family issues, this time, he decided to keep quiet and give silent nod to the matter.
Kingshuk was interviewed by not just Umashankar and Parvati but Priya’s uncle or Chachaji, her father’s younger brother also. At the end of one and half hours of grilling, even Parvati had to accept that Kingshuk would be a good Damaad (son-in-law). It was decided that Umashankar and family would meet Aditya and Rina Bose and decide upon the auspicious date for the wedding ceremony.
The wedding took place at the Chhatarpur Farm House of Priya’s Chachaji on a November evening. It was a joint reception and guests from both side were present, distinctly different sets of people, on the one side were typical crowd from small town and the other side were cosmopolitan suave crowd clearly friends from the profession of both Priya and Kingshuk. There were food for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians but kept at opposite ends so that there are no clashes. Notwithstanding the Bengali custom of DOLI being taken the following evening as the Sun sets, Priya and Kingshuk left with Rina and Aditya to start their conjugal life at the latter’s house in C R Park. The honeymoon was planned to coincide with Christmas holidays and they went to Goa.
Priya and Kingshuk settled down to a routine lifestyle, both their offices were at Cyber Hub, Gurgaon and they commuted together in Priya’s newly acquired BMW X1. The married life was breezing past and before one could realise, it was time for first anniversary celebrations. Using the membership of Aditya at the Jahapanna Club at Alaknanda, Priya and Kingshuk arranged the party where friends and colleagues of both joined for the merriment. There was Sanjay Sinha from Priya’s office. He has recently joined as Account Director of the agency. Kingshuk had met him once or twice, while picking up Priya from her office, but somehow never really liked him. He could not pin point the reason for his dislike but perhaps it was Sanjay’s exuberance and handsome features which attracted most women to him that put Kingshuk off completely. But, on this day as a host, he kept a permanent smile on his face and allowed Sanjay to not just flirt with Priya and other girls from the office but even with his sister Rina.
Four years have passed and there have been a number of changes in the life of Priya and Kingshuk. First, they have shifted to a rented accommodation in Gurgaon amid protest from Rina. Secondly, Kingshuk is now Marketing Head of a product category and his responsibility has increased manifolds requiring him to spend many a late evenings in office. Priya too has increased responsibilities now with more clients to handle. As a result they no longer commute together as the timings do not match any more, especially in the evenings. Third and most importantly, the communications between them has reduced substantially, may be because they hardly see each other on most of the days of the week. Only weekends seems to bring out the conversations but then that too, turns into arguments quite often. Moreover, Kingshuk now has to travel all over the country, at least a week every month. But to the outsiders and they include their near-and-dear ones as well, everything seemed to be perfect. In fact, Priya and Kingshuk had booked their own flat, a penthouse at the Golf Course Road and expected to shift there in 18 months time.
It was late February Saturday evening, Kingshuk was out on extensive tour as there as only a month left to achieve yearly targets, when Priya decided to call over friends for a impromptu party at home. They were colleagues from office who have become friends primarily as more and more time is now being spent with them. Sanjay Sinha was there too, he has become very close to Priya nowadays as they seem to spend more time together in the office. The party was in full swing with music dancing and general chitter-chatter with sub groups sitting all around the apartment. Priya and Sanjay were on the balcony both having their drinks and smoking. The people inside could not hear their conversation as the glass door was closed but some of them were giving them curious glances now and then. It was obvious that something was brewing between the two. The bell rang and someone opened the door to receive the food ordered from the Karim’s. The smell of hot Mughlai delicacies stopped the dancing and Simran, Priya’s junior knocked on the glass door of the balcony and said, “Priya, Sanjay, the food is here, let’s eat till they are hot.” Priya and Sanjay took a last puff from their cigarettes and came inside. The Mughlai food was exceptionally good and finished in no time. It was almost 11:30 and most of them decided to call it a day; some had to go quite a distance to Noida, another suburbia of Delhi. The ones left were Sanjay, Simran, Ashutosh and his wife, Uma and her husband, all from Gurgaon only.
Around midnight, there was the sound of key turning in the main door of the apartment but the people inside were so engrossed with each other that nobody heard the footsteps when Kingshuk entered. He had meant to give a surprise to Priya but in turn was surprised himself. Priya was sitting very cosily with Sanjay and others too were in a very relaxed posture all across the hall. Kingshuk wanted to say something but just gestured a Hi to all and went inside to the bedroom and closed the door. He sat down on the bed with his head on his palms. He needed to revisit his relationship with Priya who is now very distant from him. They hardly make love anymore and if either is in mood, the other will give some excuse to avoid it. Kingshuk realised it was more than half hour when Priya entered the room and said, “You were supposed to come next week, how come you are so early?” There was no happiness in her voice but a tinge of irritation. Kingshuk looked up at her and said sarcastically, “I know you are not happy let alone welcome me for I have spoiled your evening with your boyfriend.” “If you are talking about Sanjay, then let me tell you, he is just a good friend and we were not alone, there were others too. I was feeling low so I had called them over for an impromptu get-together.” Priya retorted. Kingshuk was too tired to answer her back; he got up and went to the bathroom to change his clothes.
In the morning, Priya in a reconciliatory tone said, “Jaanu, since you’re back in town, let’s go and meet Rina didi and Jiju. We haven’t met them for a long time.” Kingshuk too was thinking of visiting his sister as he needed some kind of balm to calm his nerves, so agreed instantly. He called up his sister and informed her about their impending visit.
Months have passed after that Saturday and on the surface, Priya and Kingshuk seemed to have sorted out their relationship. Kingshuk had not only achieved his targets but have actually exceeded them and is certain to become Deputy General Manager which promises a quantum increase in salary and perks. He was in a happy, contended mood when Priya suggested they take a short break as there was practically no work pressure at this time of the year. They decided to drive down to Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand where Kingshuk’s friend Aditya Amar runs a nice resort by the name Cottage Nirvana.
The coveted holiday began in the wee hours when most people were sleeping on a Wednesday as they drove towards Mukteshwar in Priya’s BMW X1. Nobody saw them leaving even the colony guard who was taking a quick nap inside the booth. Kingshuk was an avid photographer and would stop at places to take a shot of the scenic beauties once they had hit the mountain trail. After crossing Bhimtaal where they had stopped for lunch, they reached a spot near Ramgarh, the scenic beauty with Trishul range at the backdrop was fascinating. Kingshuk couldn’t wait to find a spot to stop the car and take some pictures. Priya too was waiting for the car to stop and Kingshuk to take snap shots in the secluded road. There was hardly any traffic at this time of year as school & colleges are yet to shut for the summer break.
Kingshuk started taking snaps and got so engrossed in the scenic beauty of the place that neither did he realised that he was standing almost on the edge of the land nor the fact that Priya was standing right behind him. He felt a sharp pain at the back as Priya pushed the sharp knife into his back and thereafter everything went black as he tumbled down the ravine. Priya was holding the blood stained knife, there was an eerie smile on her face. She looked down but could not see Kingshuk. She was about to throw the knife in the ravine when a convoy of cars from both direction showed up. She covered the knife with her blue silk scarf and came back to the car tossing the knife inside at the passenger side, hoping to get rid of it later, sat on the driver’s seat and took a U-turn towards Delhi, towards her Sanjay.
She was sitting in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. She had called Sanjay once she reached outskirts of Delhi and he has agreed to meet her there. She ran through the events of the past few years and was sure that there was no love left between her and Kingshuk, at least from her side. A new beginning is awaiting her as she thought about her well laid plan; the passport with US H1B visa for 10 years along with the Lufthansa tickets are in the purse as was the offer letter from JWT, New York where she will be joining the following Month. She had called her aunt Malini at New York confirming her impending visit. Her divorce papers are also ready and currently lying on the dining table. She thought all this was not necessary if only Kingshuk had agreed to the divorce when she had asked him once after that Saturday incidence. The divorce documents will give her the alibi that she had no knowledge of Kingshuk’s whereabouts or of any mishap that he may have encountered that day.
Her reverie broke as she felt a hand touch her shoulder. She turned back and saw Sanjay standing behind and she hugged him tightly. Sanjay kissed her lightly on the lips and they sat down. She pushed the blood soaked knife wrapped in her blue scarf towards Sanjay and said, “This needs to be disposed urgently.” Sanjay touched the scarf and immediately withdrew his hands and said, “What is this? Why are you still carrying it with you? You should have thrown it somewhere on the route.” “Yes I tried to throw it thrice but couldn’t do so as every time I stopped to find a good spot to dispose it, some one or the other would show up.” Priya said exasperated. Sanjay took the scarf holding the knife and placed it in his bag. “Now, what is your plan?” asked Sanjay. “Well I will have to kill some time before heading for the airport by eleven, scheduled departure is 0240 hours. My bags are in the car, but you will have to get rid of Kingshuk’s suitcase,” replied Priya. Then with a twinkle in her eyes, said “We can use this intervening time to know each other more intimately.” Sanjay laughed shaking his head and said, “Why are we wasting time here, let’s go then.” It was decided that they will take their individual car and Priya would hand over the suitcase of Kingshuk on way to Sanjay who will dispose it off along with the knife.
Priya and Sanjay reached Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 around 11 pm and parked her car in the premium car park. It had been decided that Sanjay will take a cab for returning to the city as they wanted the car to remain undetected for a few days. He had already disposed off the knife and burned the blood stained blue scarf in the wilderness of Gurgaon-Faridabad Road. Sanjay suggested that the best way to dispose of the suitcase will be to lose it inside the airport. The suitcase was a small stroller which Priya can easily leave it in the washroom or even at the Lufthansa counter itself, in the crowd no one will notice, perhaps. They approached gate together and Priya showed her passport and the ticket to the CISF personnel. He looked at the passport with a keen eye and looked at Priya even more closely. He then raised his hands to call somebody and soon a posse of Police surrounded Priya and Sanjay. “Your game is over Ms. Priya Dutt and Mr. Sanjay Sinha” boomed the voice of Inspector Inderjit Sharma. Priya and Sanjay looked at each other, they had almost made it, and the only incriminating evidence on them was the strolley of Kingshuk, the presence of which they cannot explain. Sanjay was the first to recover and he protested, “What game are you talking about, Inspector? She is a friend and I have come to see her off.” Inspector Inderjit Sharma is a seasoned player, he told them very calmly “I am okay if you guys want to create a scene here in the public but I suggest a more civilised way would be that we go to my office and talk about it there.”
Lady Sub-Inspector Shanta Chauhan broke the news to Priya. Kingshuk, by fluke had survived both the knife injury as well as the fall and was rescued by some villagers. He was taken to a local hospital where upon getting conscious he had asked for Aditya Amar from Cottage Nirvana and Aditya had called the police. The police took the statement from Kingshuk at the hospital including the mobile number of Priya which was passed on to Delhi Police and they immediately put it on tracking. The police knew it when she reached IGI T3 and had put an alert on all the gates. The sub-inspector told Priya that she is being taken into custody for attempted murder and Sanjay Sinha for being an accomplice in the crime.
Priya sighed and thought if only she could have got rid of Kingshuk’s strolley, the last incriminating evidence; she could have denied all the charges.