Pink Lilies

The divorce hit him hard. He tried his best to avoid it but he couldn’t do a thing. She was hell bent on leaving him. He tried to cling on till the last minute hoping for a change of heart. But is just didn’t happen. She finally had it her way. She wanted out and she was out. He was shattered.

This was his second divorce but this one jolted him more than the first time. That was something he wanted. And he managed to get it without much fuss. His first wife was upset but it didn’t matter much to him. He felt happy to be off that marriage. This one was different. He thought he’d finally found true love and letting her go was too painful for him.

As he drove from the courts to his apartment his mind was filled with thoughts about them. Memories of happy moments flashed across him and he kept reliving them in a hopeless attempt to think of a recovery. Could he ever get her back in his life, he wondered. He kept speeding as he raced towards his house.

He entered his empty apartment which no longer felt like home to him. She made it home and now in her absence it felt odd. Almost everything in the flat reminded him of her. He dropped his car keys in the bowl and headed straight for the bar. Which they both had designed and filled up. With their choice of spirits. So many moments of red wine and whiskey, music and musings, passionate love making, all came back to him. He pulled out a bottle of single malt, which they had bought together from a local brewery in Pitlochry, Scotland. It was her anniversary present to him, only last year. So much had changed in just one year, he thought to himself as he took a swig straight from the bottle. He flopped himself down on the couch, bottle in hand, as he stared vacantly in no particular direction. His life seemed just as aimless to him at the moment.

He didn’t know how long he was on the couch. But he woke up almost after a whole day. Or so it seemed to him. His head was dizzy and his eyes felt unfocused. He faintly heard the doorbell ring as he groggily lifted himself off the couch and headed towards the door.

He opened the door to see her standing. With a bright smile on her face.

It was Isabelle. His first wife.

Hi honey, she smiled. I knew how heartbroken you might be and thought or checking on you. She was carrying a brown paper bag and a bunch of pink lilies.

I knew you’d probably not eat well and hence got some groceries for you, her smile was intact as she handed the big bag to him.

I’ve been through this myself so I know well. How it feels to be rejected by the person you love the most. And have no way of getting him back in your life. I know the pain, she spoke nonchalantly, looking directly in his eyes all the while.

He was too stunned to react.

How can you, how is it…he could barely complete his sentence before he felt like he was slipping in to a deep sleep. He could almost feel himself collapsing against the open door. Her smiling face was the last thing he remembered seeing before his eyes shut.

He woke up at his own door after an eternity by the vibrations of his cell phone in his pocket.

Isabella passed away last night, alone in her council house room in Brighton. It was a message from his sister. She had kept in touch with her till her last days.

He was still lying by his door, his cell phone in his hand. From the corner of his eyes he could see a bunch of dried up pink lilies.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2020. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead.

A Rainy Day in the City

He sat crouched one the narrow wooden panel by the bay windows and watched the rain incessantly lash down on the city. The city traffic packed as ever seemed to crawl as cars buses and bikes were being drenched by the lashing August rain. He felt a strange comfort knowing he wasn’t down there, as he snuggled the warm cup of green tea in his hands.

Nellie McKay was playing in the background but her soft voice was drowned by the din coming from the open kitchen nearby. The sound of the chopping board punctuated her mellifluous singing. “It was just one those things” McKay sang. And there she was, her black hair tied in a top knot as she made steamed momos. He looked at her once, turning away from the bay window. She was earnestly alternating between stir frying the chicken on the pan and chopping the veggies. He smiled softly as he saw her beautiful face.

“What is this new nonsense of turning veg” she enquired, a tad irritated. She would’ve ideally loved to make just chicken steamed momos without having to make a veg option for him. He smiled back sheepishly.

This meeting was an unexpected one. He had come to the city for some official work and had planned to get back the same evening. His work was done a couple of hours earlier than he thought it would. He decided to surprise her with a visit.

“You’re lucky I’m home you know. Come in unannounced and usually you’d not find me home. Harsh is out of town and I have the car to myself. It’s just that the rains were too heavy today”. She always knew how to hide her joy at seeing him quite well.

“Yeah right. I know how much you love leaving your four walls”, he smiled to himself as he took off his jacket at the corridor.

She was about to make momos for herself with the leftover chicken and was happy she had company. His announcement that he’d given up meat surprised her, although she was used to his sudden whims by now. “Your latest fad eh”, she mildly rebuked him as she ruffled his wet hair. “Go dry yourself and let me make momos for you in the meantime.”

As he kept staring at the traffic and the city from the 15th floor apartment, he remembered a time when the city was his own too. The memories came back flooding as he sipped on his hot tea. Their high school years and then their sophomore years. Years of joy fun and laughter. Years of love.

Nellie McKay was now singing “How About You”, as he found himself dozing off by the window porch. He could still hear her voice in the background, chattering away over Ms McKay’s soothing vocals. He loved the fact that sometimes she didn’t even wait for his reply. She just loved talking. It was a sign that she was happy. She tended to clamp up at other times.

“Wake up and have the second best steamed momos and watch me devour the best of them”, she gently shook him from his slumber.

He woke up and looked at the two plates with the piping hot food staring at him from the adjoining dining table. The first bite of his momo took him straight back to the good old days of college. When they’d bunk their lectures and sneak in to see a movie midday, hiding their piping hot steamed momos from the ushers. The thrill of sharing a hot snack with her in the darkness of the movie hall came back to him as he devoured his momos.The spicy red sauce that accompanied it was also doing its job…watering his eyes, making them burn in pleasure. She looked at him in eager anticipation to know how they had turned out. He kept munching away, oblivious to her presence. He was way too lost in the past.

She kept staring at him for some more time, still hoping she’d get a reaction from him. But he was too lost to notice. She smiled softly seeing him enjoy his lunch. She knew she’d got her answer. She got up from her chair and went across to sit next to him. He was still devouring away his momos with gusto. She put her head on his shoulder as she put her arms around his arm. He looked up and turned to see her. This is…this is…awesome you know, he finally said his mouth still filled with food. She didn’t say anything in reply. She shut her eyes and kept her head on his shoulders. Her afternoon was perfect.

As he finished his lunch he looked up at her. She was still sitting next to him. Her chicken steamed momos untouched, sat on the beautiful china on the table.

“You better finish your lunch.”

“I’m not hungry anymore.”

They sat next to each other for the whole afternoon talking, reminiscing and laughing. It was as if time stood still that afternoon, as two friends revisited their lives with each other in intimate detail. And neither of them wanted to come out of it. The rains continued to play havoc outside, sweeping the dirt off the city. It was almost as if the cobwebs of time were removed to freshen up those memories all over again.

It was evening and both of them were now at her balcony as they watched the endless showers go on and on.

“Looks like you’ll miss your flight this evening”, she said without looking at him.

He looked at her and smiled knowingly. She smiled back as she buried her face in his shoulders.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2020. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead.

Omelette Pav

He loved pav. The smell of the local bread, the sight of those fresh buns rising in those local wood fire ovens thrilled him like nothing else.

And he loved her smile.

Every time she smiled he felt his world light up just that little bit more. Her eyes sparkled as she smiled and he felt a wave of happiness run through his entire body, knowing it was for him.

They sat together that day in the tiny dilapidated Irani joint. They sat in silence.

A handful of tables around them were occupied. Thanks to the plethora of modern coffee shops and bistros that had mushroomed all over town, these Iranis were rarely visited by people. Only a handful of loyalists came here to sip on milk tea and take a bite of bun maska and mawa cake. The younger lot had stopped coming.

They both looked around the place and once again looked at each other. Her wavy brown hair now had a few silver streaks visible in them. Although she had tied it in a simple ponytail the volume of her hair was still evident. He loved the way it bounced when she walked. Her eyes had lost a bit of the sheen but there were still traces of that old sparkle. Her porcelain skin as delicate as ever. She looked still the same to him in her white chikan kurta and blue jeans. The oxidised jewellery on her was his favourite. She knew it and probably that’s why wore it. His thinning hair was more salt than pepper. There were crow’s nest around his eyes which made him look like a sage. She always felt there was an inner calm about him despite his often aggressive exterior. His present appearance seemed to confirm her belief. As always, his black denim shirt and faded blue jeans remained the same. She was glad somethings hadn’t changed in all these years.

It was nice of you to come, she finally broke their silence.

He looked at her and smiled. He had no words in response.

I know you won’t understand and maybe even think it’s not fair to you but I need to do this, she continued, as she looked straight into his eyes. She placed her hands on his for the first time that evening.

You know when we reconnected I told you about my marriage. And how I was struggling to stay afloat. You stood beside me like a rock when I was trying to keep it alive. You never let me feel alone. And today I see a glimmer of hope. I see a change no matter how small it seems at this time it still is a change. And I don’t want to let go now. And yet I don’t want to be unfair to you either. I must move on and get it back on track. She was suprised at the ease with which words flowed out of her mouth. She hadn’t known how to break to him but as always, she felt so much of comfort and ease being with him, she didn’t have to try very hard. They just came spontaneously.

He didn’t say a word, as he just kept looking at her. He was reading her eyes as much as he was listening to her. He gripped her hands tighter as he felt hers on his.

As she kept on talking, he was hearing lesser and lesser. He could see her lips moving, her hands stroking his hands from time to time, her dazzling smile and a few moments when her eyes swelled up too. But he couldn’t hear a thing. There was music playing in his head. Songs from the past kept kept playing inside him as he took a trip down the road he had avoided all these years. Those heady days of college and after. Those days when they were both young. And in love. That’s all that mattered then. Armed with love they were ready to face the world without realising how inadequate their preparations were for its challenges.

Life had skittled them apart like ninepins and before they realised it they were busy in their real lives in the world. A far cry from the dreams they had woven together.

A chance meeting at a college reunion had brought them face to face again after decades. And they tried to pick it up from where they had left it. She was in the middle of a troubled marriage and he was battling his inner demons from within. But with each other they found a strength and a calm they both needed in their separate lives.

The waiter brought cheese straws and an omelette pav and placed it on their table. A cup of milk tea and black coffee accompanied them.

He drew his hands away from her as he picked up the cup to take a sip of his tea. She was taken by surprise by his sudden action. Instinctively she drew her hands closer to herself, turning her face away. She picked up a cheese straw nervously, trying to hide her feelings, her face turned away.

I knew you wouldn’t understand she said again breaking the awkward silence which was shorter than what it felt like to her.

He reached out his hand towards her this time but she moved hers away, still upset at his earlier action.

I understand, he finally said for the first time that evening. I may not agree or accept, but I understand. He looked right into her eyes as he spoke. She felt that same magic she felt every time he looked at her that way. It hadn’t changed in all these years.

You’re pushing me away again, he continued, his tone getting slightly more aggressive than the understanding and empathetic one a moment ago. Just like you did years ago. Just your way. Your decision, your wish. Almost as if I don’t have a say in this at all. It’s always like this, his voice kept growing louder as he got up from his chair and pushed the table slightly towards her.

You left me then without giving me a reason or even half a chance to explain. It was all about you then and it’s the same even now. After all these years, he was furious by the time he was walking away from her.

She looked up at him, as she was recovering from his verbal volleys all this time. She had forgotten how his silences would often be punctuated with the vilest of words. She remembered all that now as she looked up at his standing frame. His crinkly eyes had a lot of anger.

As he walked out of the Irani, she kept sitting there, with the uneaten cheese straw still in her hand. Her eyes went on the half finished omelette pav on his side of the table. She picked up his cup of milk tea and took a sip. A hidden tear managed to find its way out of her shut eyes.

Later that evening he stared blankly at the half torn calendar in the wall of his studio apartment. Would it be another 17 years till they met again, he wondered. Or was this really the end?

The smell of freshly baked pav wafted through as he stood by his window shutting his eyes, lost in no particular thought at all.

Coffee Rings

She stared at the circular ring, made by the coffee mug on the table. It had dried up and was almost impossible to get rid off. She kept looking at it absentmindedly as the coffee was in her hand. A new mug filled with fresh coffee to make a new ring on the table. She was interrupted by the mobile beeping.

She looked at the message and coffee spilled out of her mug as her hands shook.

It was pouring that Sunday afternoon.

“My flyers are all destroyed. Damn the rains”, his tone had more anguish than anger. Usually it was always the other way around.

“That’s a first for you,” she looked up from her magazine, smiling at his more mellow outburst to his usual demeanour.

He looked at her, part angry, part bewildered, but mostly still upset at the loss of his flyers. As he sat down on the seat next to hers, his drenched jeans made a splashing sound. People around the cafe turned to look towards them.

She took out a pocket towel from her bag and gently wiped his face and also touched his wet hair. He instinctively tried to move his head away. He hated anyone touching his hair. But she held his face firmly with her hand as she wiped his head dry. He looked around the cafe to see if anyone else was noticing this “embarrassing” sight. It was a busy weekend evening. People were lost in their own worlds.

She loved him like she had never loved anyone before him. They were two of the unlikeliest people to be with each other. His political ideology his beliefs his outlook to life was at odd opposites to those of hers. Two people could not have been more different from each other as they were. And perhaps because of these differences they complemented each other. They filled out with themselves what the other had missing. If love was to have no sensible logic or rationale or explanation, then the two of them were loving examples of that line of thought.
They spent the rest of the evening together. Holding hands, whispering sweet nothings and generally having a relaxed time. It was one of those blissful evenings which remained etched in her memory long after.

“They just should kicked out of the country” he spewed more venom that usual, that evening.

It was her sister’s anniversary and it was one of the rare occasions she had taken him along to spend time with her family. He always preferred to be just the two of them. She too liked it that way. When they were alone she could see a side of him that the world rarely got to see. The tender, loving, caring side. To the outside world his cynicism, sarcasm and the blatantly right-winged side was familiar. In a way he was much misunderstood, she felt at times. But then again, he didn’t help his own cause by shooting his mouth off.

It was the same that evening. Someone had commented on the present scenario in the country, and he took it on himself to set the record straight.

“Either be butchered here or get the fuck out”, he seemed unstoppable that evening. She looked at him a couple of times to shut him up. Usually she managed to do that with a stare or two. But it just didn’t seem to work. He rambled on and on. Spewing out his venom at all present.

There was an awkward silence all across the room as his voice was the only voice that could be heard. His tone acerbic and cutting, his words hatred-filled, his actions animated like never before. Something seemed to have triggered him off that evening.

She had to no choice but to take him and leave the party. There was a deadly silence in the car as they sat next to each other. It was like the calm after the storm. No one said a word till they reached their respective homes.

“You know you need to learn how to behave in public and not speak whatever filth comes in your mind,” she left nothing unsaid the next morning as they met for breakfast.

“My apologies if the truth upset you and your phoney libtards”, he replied. He certainly wasn’t apologetic about his outburst the previous evening.

She was amazed at his arrogance, and she pitied his ignorance and dogma at the same time. She had a reply to each and every accusation he flung at her at the cafe that morning, but she kept quiet. Her silence was not as much for peace as it was an acceptance that the end was near. She knew she couldn’t make this work any longer.

She could maybe even forgive infidelity on his part maybe even a small fling. But to know of his ideology and accept it and be ok with it was something she just could get used to. Not in her head. Not in her heart. She knew this was it.

It’s funny how love can transcend all rational feelings most of the time, but sometimes the mind knocks the heart down with reasoning that cannot be ignored. Their parting however tragic was ultimately inevitable. It just could not be any other way.
She had cried that night, alone in her bed. Despite all his negatives, she knew she would miss him. She loved him. She could not deny that. Not even to herself.

The coffee rings on the table grabbed her attention once more as she came back to her present day. She looked at the message on her mobile phone once again.
“….the only saving grace was he didn’t suffer too much. He passed away in his sleep peacefully….” that part of the message was the only bit she read again. She shut her eyes for a minute in that family cafe as a couple of tears streamed down her eyes. The first to escape since that night.

The Mirror

The murders continued unabated. Every second day a body would be found in some secluded part of the city. The same modus operandi…strangled by a silk handkerchief. The victim pattern too was similar. Women between the ages 25-35. Most of them escorts. From the manner in which their bodies were found, it was obvious that they had been called to the assigned places where their lives were taken.

Detective John was convinced this was the handiwork of a serial killer. A dangerous one and more frighteningly, a relentless one. Obviously something had triggered him off to go on a killing spree like this. There were 6 bodies found in the last two weeks. The frequency and the intensity were alarming. Apart from the usual pressure from the top, the media as always had gone berserk. They had dubbed the killer ‘The Satin Smotherer’ since all the killings were done by silk kerchiefs. He hated the fact that he had to spend half his working hours dealing with the media rather than focus wholly on the case.

Edward combed his well-moussed hair back as he put his dark glasses on. He took out his pay and use mobile from his pocket and dialed her number. They decided to meet by the cafe in the waterfront. Post coffee he took her to quiet corner on the side of the cafe. As they kissed passionately, he took out a red kerchief from his pocket. Before she knew it, the noose had tightened around her neck. Her eyes widened in a mix of fright and shock, as he kept tightening his grip around her neck. He eased off as he felt her body go limp in his arms, her eyes still open, unfocussed. He let her drop in the deserted alley and walked away, whistling an old Sinatra tune. The blue moon shone brightly as his lonely figure disappeared in the darkness.

John was woken up from his sleep by the early morning phone call. Another body had been found, he was told. He felt his head heavy and his mind wasn’t working. He couldn’t remember when he had fallen asleep last night. It was like a haze to him…the few hours since last evening. He took a shot of whisky from the bottle on his table next to the bed. His head was still feeling heavy as a rock. He got up and splashed some water on his face. He had to get to the station early. The murders were getting out of hand now.

As he reached his office the place was abuzz with reporters who wanted more news on the latest killing. He shunned them off as he rushed towards his cabin. There was a sealed envelope on his table. He took a look at it and then forgot about it, as he got busy with his work. The whole day was spent working with his associates, assimilating facts and theories about how to nab the killer. It was in the evening when he was about to leave his office that his eyes fell on the letter again. It was from his psychiatrist. He tore open the envelope to read the contents.

“Report & Diagnosis: Mr John Edward Smith,

After having gone through the patient’s previous medical history as well as the therapy sessions conducted by me, the conclusions are as follows:

  1. The hypomanic episode of Mr Smith last month at the break up of his marriage and the subsequent manic depressive episode at his ex-wife’s residence matches the clear and obvious symptoms of Bipolar II disorder
  2. Mr Smith has a tendency to assume a secondary personality which might be completely opposite in nature to his dominant personality and at the same time be unaware of its existence
  3. Immediate admission to a specialised psychiatrist medical institute is recommended

John kept staring at the letter even as he reached home that evening. His eyes were fixed on it and he barely batted an eyelid for about fifteen minutes, holding the note all the time. He finally got off the couch keeping the note on the table beside.

He went to his bedroom and stood in front of the mirror and stared hard at it. He could clearly see Edward, the ‘Satin Smotherer’ staring back at him from the mirror. The evil grin on his face was unmistakable.

“Edward must die”, were John’s last words as he put his device revolver to his temple and shut his eyes.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar


She came to him like a dream. He was rushing from his office for a meeting he already was late for. As he ran out of the office to hail the nearest cab he banged on to someone. As he fell, his folder containing documents needed for his meeting, were scattered all over the pavement. A speeding cab nearly ran him over when he was swiftly moved over to safety by her. He looked up at her in his shocked state and was instantly mesmerised. She stood upright in front him like a fairy. Her wavy hair open and flowing, her almond eyes twinkling, as she smiled at him and reached her hand down to him to pick him up

“That was close wasn’t it”, she said still smiling.

“Thank you so much”, was all he could muster, his hands still trembling at the shock of what just happened. And what could have happened had it not been for her.

She was smartly dressed in a dark suit and matching knee-length skirt and a white satin shirt under her jacket. Her fair complexion turned pink as she looked at him and smiled. He felt a rush of happiness seeing that smile and knowing it was for him.

“My file”, he exclaimed, suddenly realising it had dropped as he fell and the papers were scattered all around. He looked around and couldn’t see anything.

“It’s here with me”, her angelic voice made him look at her again instead of the pavement where he was hunting for it.

She smiled yet again as she handed over the file to him. It had a beautiful lavender smell about it. Maybe it was her perfume that was on it. The papers were neatly stacked inside. He looked around and was relieved to find no loose paper around the pavement.

“Do you work nearby”, he asked her, attempting to begin a conversation with the beautiful woman.

“Same building as yours”, she smiled. “I’ve seen you many a time. Most of the times rushing for a cab”, her smile broadened as she spoke the words.

“Uhh yes. I’m always late and am forever rushing to make it to my meetings on time”, he confessed, happy at making progress in his conversation with her.

“I know. I’ve seen you running behind cabs most of the times.” You must learn to be on time”, there was a hint of mild reprimand in her tone.

“Aren’t you getting late now”, she asked him, as he was staring at her fixedly, mesmerised and bemused at the same time. He had never seen a woman as beautiful as her.

“Uh yes yes”, he replied, embarrassed at being found out. “I’d better go. Hope to see you soon again, since we’re both in the same building”, he said, extending his hand to shake hers.

He was about to ask her name when he felt splashes of water on his face. He opened his eyes and saw a crowd of people staring at him. He was lying on the pavement. His file was lying close enough to him. The papers seemed ok to him.

“You’re lucky mister. You would’ve gone for good had it not been for Maya”, the old security guard from the building said.

“Maya…yes I know…I was talking to her just now when….”; he stopped mid sentence as it didn’t make sense to him at all. He surely was talking to her. So what was he doing lying down on the pavement? And the file was in his hands. And not a couple of feet away on the ground. He looked around for her, confused and dazed.

“Where did she go…Maya “, he asked no one in particular, wondering aloud.

“Maya, our beautiful receptionist”, the security guard sighed. “It was her first day at work. She was excited that day as she was about to meet her fiancé after work. I remember her running out of the office to cross the road to meet him. And poor thing. She was knocked off by a taxi right in front of my eyes. Died instantly poor soul. It all happened in a flash in front my eyes”, the old man sighed as he gingerly walked back towards his chair again.

“And yet sometimes…I see her…like today”, the guard sighed to himself as he walked away.

He stood there, his hands still trembling as he picked up the file from the ground. As he opened it to find all the papers intact he felt an overwhelming whiff of lavender. The wind howled as he began to walk towards a waiting cab.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

Idle Cinema Musings #3 – Satyakam

SATYAKAM: (1969):Cast: Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, Asrani, Robi Ghosh, Tarun Bose, Ashok Kumar.

Directed by: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

To me personally, Satyakam is quite simply Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s best film. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this film. However what amazes me is how little most of us take from this film, in terms of its cinematic content and character development. To a vast majority of its viewers (me included till recently) Satyakam is about the honest upright refusing-to-bend/compromise lead character in the film i.e. Satya Priya (Dharmendra in the performance of a lifetime).
However it is only now after having seen the film so many times over, do I realise that Satyakam actually works not because Dharmendra is shown as a super-strong, morally upright human being who refuses to budge in spite of difficulties. I now feel that Satyakam is an honest portrayal of the weaknesses and failures of a man who refuses to budge. And when I say honest, I mean it is so well depicted and well made that we actually feel for the protagonist despite his many short-comings (yes he has many….which in fact make him human and thus indentifiable and lovable)
There is a line spoken in the film by Naren (Sanjeev Kumar in an equally superb performance, unfairly overlooked because of Dharam’s tour-de-force performance) tells Sat, “too much of everything is bad”. This probably sums up the entire movie. Satyapriya in his effort to remain honest and corruption-free doesn’t realise when he himself has become rigid inflexible and dogmatic. He refuses to see any other way out even when it means suffering and disaster for his own family.
Sat’s honesty (and indeed weakness) comes to the fore when he initially refuses to marry Ranjana (Sharmila, delightful dignified and dramatic all at once). His hesitation in accepting a proposal from Ranjana actually indirectly is the cause for to be dishonouored and it is only after this incident that he agrees to marry her. A bold step, a great decision no doubt, but also perhaps a sign of attempting to lessen his own guilt of being partly responsible for Ranjana’s plight.
During the course of the film we also discover that there is a complete absence of any physical intimacy between Sat and Ranjana, much against Ranjana’s wishes. From the beginning we know, Ranjana loves Sat. She is willing to be his wife in the true sense of the word, but it is Sat’s inability to forget her past that acts as a barrier between couple, physically. Sat comes up with a lame, “Main tumhe baaki har khushi deta hoon na”… hide his inability to forget her past.
Sat’s righteousness is evident when he suspends one of his subordinates for accepting a bribe. This is what he does best. Any signal of corruption and moral weakness is squashed by Sat without batting an eyelid. He stands for truth and morality as effortlessly as he breathes. It is like oxygen for him. However his weakness comes to the forefront once again when he is confronted by the wife of the suspended officer, who shows him the “reason” why he accepted the bribe (their child lying untreated, without any medical help). Instead of helping the couple, Sat tears up the suspension order and himself resigns from his post, citing his inability to do anything to change the system and help them, being the reason for his resignation. Sat’s intentions are never at any doubt, but his weaknesses all too often, come hand in hand with his strength.
Sat’s refusal to go and have a cup of tea with Naren, because it is his duty hour, is another classic example of the rigidity of his character. Surely, with his house being located just above the office, a cup of tea with his old friend (and current Boss nonetheless) wouldn’t have harmed anyone.
Surreptitiously, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, bares all his weaknesses to us, but such is the power of his truth and the strength of his moral values, that we tend to gloss over them or perhaps not realise them as weaknesses at all.
In the end when Sat is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he passes on his virtues and values to Ranjana. He knows he cannot help them financially, but yet refuses to part with his ideals and his beliefs. He hopes somewhere in his heart that Naren will do the needful after him, but while hoping for that, isn’t he also aware that morally and ethically Naren is different from him and more ‘wordly”? Surely Sat knows this, but…
In the climax Sat signs a piece of document (which is very important tothe plot progression) which Ranjana never expected him to sign. It stands for everything he was always against. But the moment she sees his weak smile when she tears up the document, she realises that Sat knew all along that she would do such. Its perhaps the single most tragic scene in the film, where it is impossible to decide who is on a higher moral ground here, Sat or Ranjana.
My last viewing of Satyakam made me look at the character of the protagonist in a totally new light. It is the story of a very human man. A man who is strong and frail almost at the same time. A man who stands for morality and is yet almost simultaneously unfair and unjust to people he loves. A man whose strength becomes his weakness, resulting in spectacular failure.
Perhaps it is this constant struggle between right and wrong, moral and immoral, just and unjust, and a simple man’s resolve to live life on his own principles and terms, is what makes the character of Satyapriya so endearing to us and the film such an appealing one.

Valentine’s Day

He waited at the canteen foyer for her to finish her class and come down. As usual he had bunked a couple of his lectures and was waiting for her to arrive. She, unlike him, was regular with her classes and hardly missed any. So he waited, listening to Solitary Man by Neil Diamond on his Walkman.

It was a busy day in college. Every Valentine’s Day usually was. It was a day when all the different categories of lovers would come alive and the college would transform into a sickly stage of puppy love, adolescent romance, teenage romp…however one wished to describe it. Girls with roses, cards, shiny gift-wrapped boxes or soft toys in their hands had that air of superiority about them over the girls who didn’t have any such “symbol of love”. Guys were following their respective “girl of dreams”. And sometimes others’ girl of dreams just in case they didn’t quite make it with their own. It was a busy day in college.

She finally came in to the canteen. However he hadn’t heard any class bell ring so obviously she hadn’t come down from one of her lectures. He was surprised to see that she had a guy walking along side her. The fellow had a grin on his face that instantaneously irritated him. She walked up to him and said, “Hold this bag for me please, will you, I’ll just be back” and saying that, she went with the guy towards the woods.

The woods were just a cluster of trees bunched together, adjacent to the canteen. It was a breeding ground for romance. Every pair of any worth in college would take trips to the woods, whispering sweet nothings etc. it was the place to be, if you were a couple in college. He was seething from inside to see her with him taking rounds of the woods.

She was smiling as they walked. Sometimes she even laughed. Her hair bounced away whenever she did so. He loved her even more when she laughed. But today was different. Why was she with him, in the woods…laughing? The songs on his Walkman flowed from Red Red Wine to Shilo to Song Sung Blue. But he didn’t care. He wasn’t even listening to them, as his heart pounded away preparing himself for the worst.

After what seemed ages (fifteen minutes actually) she walked back towards the canteen. The fellow was not to be seen. She came and sat next to him. He took a deep breath and pulled the earphones off his ears.

“You know he wanted to give me a valentine day card. Can you believe his cheek and audacity? Just because I smiled at his corny jokes once or twice? I burst out laughing”, she said. The words sounded like honey to him. “Get me a coffee please”, she said adjusting herself properly on the canteen pillars. “Sure I will”, he replied, suddenly discovering a new vigour in his voice and a spring in his steps. “Just get my bag will you, there’s something inside for you”, he said, as he got up to get her coffee.

“A valentine day card for me?” she smiled in anticipation looking at him in a manner that made him go weak in his knees. He smiled at her as he walked to get her coffee.

As he reached the coffee counter he turned back at the canteen to see her reading his hand-made card and smiling. He hoped she didn’t find the mixed tape he’d made for her. He wanted to give that to her himself. He was smiling to himself thinking of how he felt when he saw her with that guy in the woods.

He felt calmer and more in control now.

He loved Valentine’s Day this year.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar

Anniversary Wishes

He watched her knit with her trembling hands, sitting in front of the tv. When she watched the tv she stopped knitting. And then she would focus back on her knitting and forget the tv. This went on for a while.

He arranged the table for a dinner for two he was specially planning for the day. Their 30th wedding anniversary. The night had to be different from their usual TV dinners on trays. It had been ages since they’d sat on the dining table and had a meal.

She was knitting away as she asked, “where’s my dinner, am hungry”. She was usually soft spoken, but her raised voice made him look up from the table he was setting. “Just a few minutes more honey,” he said adjusting the candle stand in the middle of the table.

“It’s our anniversary today you know,” he reminded her. He knew her Alzheimer’s was rapidly progressing and he wasn’t surprised the day had slipped past her. She turned around to look at him and all he saw was a blank vacant face staring at him. Her brown eyes had lost the twinkle of those early days and now the sad eyes looked at him expressionless. He smiled at her as he mouthed a kiss towards her, getting the table ready. She turned back and continued knitting.

Once he completed the table, he walked up to her and in a waltzing manner took her hand as he led her towards the table. She looked at him with her surprised eyes. He still looked handsome to her, despite his thinning hair and wrinkled skin. She placed her hand spontaneously on his shoulder, as he led her to the dining table.

She looked in awe as he made her sit on her spot at the dining table. The spread on the table was impressive. He had neatly synchronised the dinner plates and soup bowls and even taken out fresh napkins and mats. She looked around the table to find grilled chicken and sautéed vegetables and potato&leek soup. There was an assortment of bread and cheese too.

“What’s today”, she asked him as she continued staring at the spread on the table.

“It’s our anniv…”, he was answering, when he was stopped mid sentence by her again.

“What’s the date today? Which day is it?”

“It’s Thursday the 6th,” he sighed. Despite adjusting with her illness there were times he felt defeated and tired.

She got off the table with a “I’ll just be back” look to him. He kept sitting at the table fidgeting with his fork, his head bowed down.

The gentle strains of the ukelele surprised him as he got up with a start. He looked up to see her standing in front of him playing the instrument with her fragile trembling hands. As she mouthed some of the words from Love Me Tender, he found the tears streaming down his cheeks. He dropped the fork on the table as he kept staring at her beautiful face as she sang and hummed for him, smiling her angelic smile at him all the while. Like always, she looked more beautiful when she was singing.

He got up from his chair and went up to her and took her in his arms. She looked up at him and whispered “Happy anniversary darling. Did you forget the day today?”

He kissed her and then hugged her tight and said “no my darling how could I”.

“I hope you’ve made my favourite soup and chicken then,” she said as she sat down after ages on the dining table.

Copyright (C) Pratik Majumdar

Old Ties

“Honey I’m home”

“Great. Will warm up dinner now”

“Can’t wait to try the roast.”

“Just hop on in and it’ll be on the table.”

It had been over fifteen minutes since they’d spoken on the phone. And yet he waited for her to come in. She didn’t.

A couple of hours later the cops were all around the house and the garage. Where her car stood parked. And she lay dead inside. Strangled by his silk tie.

He couldn’t believe this was happening. Just a while ago he was the happiest man in the world waiting for his wife to return home from work. And he had cooked a special meal for the two of them. After all it was their anniversary. And now he was busy answering the cops.

They had been married for 7 years now. He had once been a successful advertising executive and she an equally successful lawyer. Over the course of their marriage their respective lives had had different progress. She had zoomed up the career ladder whilst he sat redundant at home after his firm had shut down thanks to the economic meltdown.

As time went by she went by she began to spend incredibly long hours away from home. “It’s a new case honey”, she told him every time he enquired with her. “My client is accused of murdering his wife and I have to prove his innocence. You know how it is, honey. The husband is always the prime suspect”. The more she spoke about the case the worse he felt for her client. The golden haired man as she referred to him as.

“This doesn’t make sense does it”, the Inspector wondered to himself as he went through the dead woman’s credit card details. Of all the purchases she had made over a period of around a year she had bought double of almost every item she purchased. It didn’t take him long to figure that they were all “male items”.

“She was obviously having an affair. So whenever she bought something for her lover, her guilt would make her buy an identical one for her husband. The unemployed poor soul waiting for her at home.” The Inspector was talking loudly to himself, almost sure he would nab her killer soon.

The golden haired man sat in front of the television watching the news. After all she was a well known defence lawyer and her murder was prime time news. There were different theories coming up about her death. A possible killing due to her coming close to concluding a case was one of the given motives. This suited him fine, he reasoned to himself.

“The husband is always the prime suspect”. The golden haired man laughed as the TV reporter made this comment whilst covering her news. It had been ridiculously easy for him. He was angry when she refused to leave her husband. Worse, she was all set to confess to him about her affair. She wanted forgiveness and go back to him. That loser. That unemployed waster who did nothing but sit at home and cook for her. She was willing to let go of the beautiful one year they had spent and go back to her husband. And the cheek of her to tell him that the baby wasn’t theirs. But a result of her infidelity. Surely it was too much for him to hear. She had to go.

Killing her actually was easier than he had thought it would be. He had managed to sneak in their house in the afternoon when her husband was out to the pub for a pint. Waiting at the garage for her to come and park her car was the plan. Waiting there with the identical tie as his, from her husband’s wardrobe was the master stroke. He waited patiently as she spoke to her husband on the phone. And then he sneaked behind her as his gloved hands strangled her with her husband’s tie. Putting her back on her car seat and closing the door was cakewalk.

A week later, the golden haired man picked up the newspaper as he was having his breakfast. HUSBAND ARRESTED. LAWYER’S MURDER SOLVED screamed the headlines. After all who else could’ve killed a successful young career woman but her useless unemployed husband. And that too with his own tie. It was an open and shut case as the police confirmed.

The man finished his breakfast and headed towards his car. His new lawyer called him on his mobile phone as he was driving. “I have good news from my inside sources. The verdict today will be in our favour”.

The golden haired man stepped up on the accelerator as he began humming an old rock and roll tune. The sun shone brightly as the red sports car found its way through the city traffic that summer morning.

Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar