by Sudipto Lahiri
January 01, 2014
Pamela opened the envelope, which was kept carelessly waiting on her bedside table since last evening. Pamela wanted to slap herself for delaying so long to open this envelope. The frown on her forehead deepened, and all her senses became alert. The pain, which was stored inside her for so many years, became fresh again.
There were just two lines on a white sheet, written in some red liquid – ‘SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM. Everything in this world is uncertain. There is only one certainty in life – Death.’
Pamela took the black coffee she had made a while ago and dragged herself to the terrace. She needed the coffee to calm herself down. It was an early summer morning in Sydney. There was a mild breeze blowing across the lawn. The weather was not cold, but Pamela felt a shiver.
She sipped on her hot coffee. The New Year celebration, as usual, was grand last night. This year was the 40th anniversary of the Opera House. Midnight fireworks were launched after the New Year countdown and continued for almost ten minutes, illuminating the dark sky with multicoloured sparkles. The bridge effect was given by using new LED technology, and Reg Mombasa was the creative Ambassador.
Pamela had spent New Year’s Eve all alone, the way she had done so many times in the past. Pamela’s husband was one of the leading Surgeons in Sydney. He had had two emergency operations last night and came home early in the morning.
The missing bits of the puzzle were falling into places. Things were getting more transparent. And the more it got clearer – the more it became fearsome. Pamela felt a chill down her spine. Was she too late in opening the envelope? Did it cost another life?
Yes – surely, it has to be it. It cannot be a coincidence, as Pamela had believed until now.
In the New Year celebration of 2011, the creative director was Imaginative Australia, which promoted Marc Newson as a creative spokesperson. The theme was – “Time to Dream.” The display for the first time was choreographed by an all Australian soundtrack created by s: amplify.
The celebration and the party for Pamela and her friends continued till early morning.
And then, a piece of news created a sensation all across Sydney. Last night when Sydney was busy celebrating the New Year and people were making merry with heavy doses of alcohol and music, doomsday struck a famous hospital where a deadly fire broke out. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but the hospital suffered a substantial financial loss. The hospital had to be closed for many months. After due investigation, police closed the case as an accident due to a short circuit from the AC duct.
And the next year… the same day… New Year Eve.
The owner of that hospital was found hanging from the ceiling of the hospital office. It was the final nail in the coffin of the hospital. All the efforts to recover from the previous year’s fire accident went deep down the Parramatta River. Police made a thorough investigation after which they closed the case declaring it as a suicide. There wasn’t any evidence to prove otherwise. A note was found in the pocket of the hospital owner, which read – ‘I have sinned, and death is my only redemption. Goodbye.’
The case created ripples among many Indians staying in Australia. Was the investigation compromised? Was the case closed too soon because the doctor was an Indian?
Thirteen years ago, when Pamela married Sandy Yadav, she had a fairy tale image about Australia. She had spent days on the internet to get to know about this place. She was surprised to find that Australia was the only Continent in the world where there was never any War. The Australians participated in many wars on behalf of other countries, but Australia never had a War themselves. Wow – she thought – the people of Australia must be nothing less than Angels.
Pamela married and came to Australia with heavy baggage of guilt, but with a dream of a new life. The hope of a new life was ticking inside her uterus. But the reality was much different from a dream where most of the time, Demons prevail over Angels and stories never end with the line – and they lived happily ever after…
Pamela pleaded and begged – but, Sandy did not agree to accept a child that did not belong to him, and most importantly, because it was a girl child. The primitive mind set of his Yadav ancestors, who considered a girl child to be a burden to the society, was still in his blood.
“You knew this, Sandy – you knew this when we got married. You assured me that I could keep my baby. Then why did you change your decision after we came to Australia?”
“I gave my decision in India, and you know, I believe Indians are all liars. When I gave you my word in India, I lied. I am a responsible Australian. I cannot allow an Indian bastard to be born in this pure Australian soil.”
Pamela became hysteric and screamed out – “You call Indians a liar… you… you… what the hell are you?
You lied to me. You married me and uprooted me from my motherland with your big lie. And… and…” Pamela fell on the ground. The effect of the medicine that Sandy gave her was working. She felt a severe pain down her abdomen, increasing with time. She fell on the floor. Her body was shivering in pain. As she lost her consciousness, she felt a streak of warm liquid flowing down her legs.
The next day Pamela found herself in a suite room of a five-star hospital. A favourite hospital of the Indians in Australia. The owner of this hospital was also an Indian settled in Australia. A successful doctor and an excellent friend of Sandy. Pamela was discharged from the hospital in two days. The abortion of Pamela’s daughter was never registered in hospital records. That’s what good friends are for…
Sandy brought Pamela home with lots of care. The life inside Pamela was dead, the dreams of Pamela were dead, the hope and the belief of Pamela was dead, the Indian bastard was dead, and the threatening childhood pain of Pamela returned after so many years. She was missing Sekhar…
Tears rolled down her cheek and dropped into the cold black coffee, and into her dark black painful past. Everything became fresh inside her mind. A strange feeling gripped Pamela. Was it of satisfaction, or an unknown fear?
The hospital where Pamela lost her baby was burnt down two years ago. It was called Satyam Hospital. And the owner, the Indian doctor who helped Sandy to eradicate Pamela’s daughter’s existence and evidence, Shiv Choudhury, was found hanging dead last year – both on the New Year Eve.
This year her daughter would have completed twelve years and stepped into her teens. Pamela’s heart was beating fast, and her throat was getting chocked. Satyam and Shivam were gone. Time for Sundaram now.
But who was Sundaram? The New Year Eve of 2013 was already over. Pamela waited for the news.
December 31, 1999
When people across the globe were worried as to whether their computer would crash, whether their data were safe, and experts were busy protecting their information, Sekhar was busy harming the most sophisticated computer that God had created – the brain. Sekhar’s brain was about to crash as he kept pumping alcohol into his bloodstream. The Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05 gives a feeling of euphoria, after which depression sets in. Subsequent stages of BAC lead to excitement, confusion, coma, and by the time the BAC has reached 0.45, death occurs due to alcohol poisoning.
Sekhar didn’t care about his BAC level and kept on drinking as he had since early this month when Pamela confirmed that she was leaving him and his country and moving permanently to Australia. Her flight was on the New Year day of the next Millennium. Sekhar so wished that the Y2K virus had ended this World… a World where Love was just a stupid silly emotion, a World where money was the first and the last word.
Pamela was not stupid. She was smart and practical. She gave Sekhar a target of one year – a target to prove his love and acquire status in the World of rich people, which Sekhar failed. He failed miserably, inevitably, and definitely. Sekhar had no excuses, and Pamela had no hesitation in putting the final stamp on her decision. Their eight years of togetherness fizzled out like the froth out of a beer bottle. Sekhar laughed his heart out when he opened the beer bottle for the first time ever in his life and took his first sip. He remembered the dialogue from his favourite movie – if you have a conscience, you drown it in alcohol. Not only his conscience, Sekhar subsequently drowned his entire life in alcohol.
Pamela arrived well before midnight at the Bangalore HAL Airport, anticipating roadblocks due to New Year festivities. Pamela’s flight to Sydney was to depart at 2.30 am the next day. A New Year, a new Millennium and a new life were waiting for her. It was not easy for her to uproot her twenty-six years of living in India and especially the eight years of relationship with Sekhar. Life’s priority was love when she was eighteen. It was the euphoria that mattered then. But now – life was all about status and security. Love was only a luxury of the rich. She had understood it with lots of pain. The pain of losing her virginity on the wet slimy floor of the bathroom to her uncle. The full force of the shower washing away the blood of a fifteen-year-old painful vagina… the pain of keeping the truth dumped inside her bleeding heart for so many years… the pain of losing her first love when she saw her boyfriend kissing her sister on a dark evening… the pain of… well, pain after pain… Till she found Sekhar in her life.
When she saw Sekhar the first time, he seemed to be an insignificant ordinary person with no vision, no ambition and no future in his life. A person with no burden of tomorrow, a person who was happy and content with whatever he had, a person who had no money in his pocket, yet a smile on his lips and immense love in his heart.
Sekhar’s unconditional love became Pamela’ support. She forgot her pain. The infectious smile and happiness of Sekhar helped Pamela to steady her life. Love, the heavenly Love – it became the only truth of her life – the Satyam.
Pamela glanced at the Electronic board and reconfirmed the time of her flight.
Sekhar’s eyes were red, and ears were blocked with the effect of alcohol. He looked at the watch. Two more hours to go for the Millennium. He opened the door and climbed up the stairs to the terrace. Sekhar’s head was reeling, and his eyes were heavy. He took a deep breath, looked up at the starry sky. It was here only a few months ago that he lost his virginity to his Love. That day Pamela laughed her heart out when Sekhar told her that it was his first time ever…
Sekhar closed his eyes. He could feel the warmth of Pamela’s body, the smell of her soft wet lips as Sekhar pushed his tongue deep inside Pamela’s mouth. It was the starry sky above, the cool breeze touching their bare skin, and the spectacular Dusserah Fireworks showering blessing from the heaven, when Sekhar melted inside Pamela. He whispered in Pamela’s ears… Sundaram – the eternal beauty.
For Sekhar, – Love was life. Be believed – there was only one thing certain in his life – Love.
NYE 2013 / January 01, 2014
The luxury cruise with forty-five Indian Tourists waited for the Port clearances to take off from the Port Jackson for a one-hour journey along the Paramatta River. It was precisely 11.30 pm on December 31, and within 30 minutes, the spectacular fireworks at the Sydney Harbour Bridge will mark the advent of the year 2014.
Every year forty-five lucky Indians avail this special Australian Exotic Summer tour package, which starts with a special Christmas dinner titled Carols with Candlelight and ends with the New Year Fireworks. A seven-day package, which was sometimes reserved even a year before the event. The highlight of this package was the cruise to witness a spectacle of New Year Fireworks from the close vicinity of the Harbour Bridge.
Sekhar was standing at the balcony of his cabin, separated from the crowd who were busy flocking on the cruiser’s deck. Some were getting ready with their long-zoom cameras; some were singing and shouting in hysteria with the expectation of the marvel of celebration they were about to witness; some were getting prepared with their girlfriend or newly married wife for a unique New Year kiss.
Sekhar was the owner of this Tour Company, which is now one of India’s leading tour operators. Within a brief span of twelve years, Sekhar’s Company had surpassed even the top International brands like Thomas Cook and SOTC. Sekhar did everything possible and impossible that was written in the guide books of business to acquire this success and put his Company on the front page of all leading business magazines, including Fortune and Business Today.
Sekhar sipped at his wine glass. The Champagne bottle was kept inside his cabin, immersed in a bed of ice. A bottle of Champagne was also kept beside every passenger – a compliment from the Company. There was also a special gift, wrapped in colourful paper to mark the occasion.
The Australian Exotic Summer package was conceived and specially designed by Sekhar. It took him five long years to build up ties with the Australian counterpart. Getting a particular slot for his luxury cruise was not easy – but then money could do everything – as someone said thirteen years ago. Sekhar smiled and thought – ‘It was worth it. It was all worth my daughter. Today at the stroke of midnight, she will step into the sweet teens.’
It all started way back the day Sekhar got Pamela’s letter. He got discharged just that day from a hospital in Bangalore after three weeks of fighting alcohol poisoning. The doctor was also shocked to see the condition of his patient. A person could poison himself almost to death with alcohol only in six months – Sekhar was a glaring example. When doctor asked him – “Why did you have to take so much trouble and time to kill yourself? You could have done it in seconds. Why struggle for six months?”
Sekhar was not able to speak due to severe pain. But still, he could smile and reply – “Well, Doctor, you will not understand. A person who has a romance with pain wants to enjoy it. I was enjoying it for six months.”
The doctor ended Sekhar’s romance and put him back on his feet to face the cruel world again. Sekhar was broke from all corners – his health, work, home, and mostly, his heart. But then Pamela’s letter changed everything…
Sekhar read the letter several times to understand its content. What should he do now? Only one thought came to him – it is now time to end everything, including his life.
Sekhar wanted to gulp down a full bottle of whisky – but he resisted. The single line from Pamela’s long six-page letter was burning him down – ‘Sorry… I could not save your daughter.’ He had loved Pamela for eight years before she shattered his life and walked out. Suddenly, he felt the same love and the same romance back again – but not for Pamela, for his unborn daughter. The heartbeat of her daughter, which took birth in India, was forcefully ceased in Australia. Sekhar decided – he will not let the heartbeat of his daughter stop. She will live with him – his daughter – her heartbeat – Spandan. Yes – that is what he will call her – Spandan – the heartbeat.
Sekhar woke up from a nightmare. It was time for resurrection – time to act and get back the respect of the lady he loved, time to get the justice for her unborn girl. Yes – it was time to destroy… time to become the Shivam – The Destroyer…
The cruise started speeding through the dark waters of Paramatta River. Another ten minutes to go. Sekhar felt relaxed and contented. His accurate planning and efficient execution had yielded him the desired results over the past five years. He had made the final payment this evening to the person who would make his plan become a reality. Yes, Pamela was so correct. Money could do everything.
Sekhar paid handsomely the lady who worked at Satyam Hospital in the Nursing Department. After two years of searching, he finally got the match who could do his work successfully. Aiyana was from Nagaland and had immense hatred for India. Sekhar duped her with a considerable sum of money beyond her expectations. Motivating her to trap and kill an Indian was easy because of her deep-rooted hatred for India. The way she explained it – “Not only me, if you search my State, almost every second person hates India. And if you ask why, I will tell you…’’ (and whatever Aiyana explained, Sekhar being a citizen of India, had to put her head and eyes down in shame. How little he knew about this small State and its people!)
Creating a short circuit in the hospital was not difficult but trapping Shiv Chowdhury was not easy. Aiyana had to become pregnant with him and had to film intricately and vividly all acts that led to her pregnancy with Shiv Choudhury. Abetting him for suicide was easy because Shiv Chaudhury was a weak person.
This evening, Sekhar completed his last and final assignment. He felt happy.
The luxury cruise approached the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Tour Manager came to Sekhar and said –
“Sir, another five minutes to go to the New Year. You want me to open your Champagne?”
Sekhar didn’t respond. Instead, he forwarded a Gift Box towards her.
To her awe, surprise, and a pleasant shock, she found a beautiful pure silver Nataraj Statue inside the box. She was so taken aback – she could not thank Sekhar properly. But Sekhar didn’t care about her formal reciprocation. Her expression said it all.
“Sir…so, do you want….”
Sekhar waved at her and put his finger on his mouth and said –
“SSSShhhhhh…. Let me enjoy this moment.”
Pamela came down from the terrace. Sandy was shouting from the bedroom for his coffee. Pamela prepared the breakfast as Sandy came rushing to the dining table. “Why can’t you take a day off, at least on New Year?”
Sandy did not seem to hear Pamela at all. “You know, something exciting happened yesterday. In so many years of practising, I have never come across such a strange person.”
Sandy finished his cheese toast and boiled eggs and sipped on his second cup of coffee. Pamela gave him a curious look waiting for Sandy to reveal the strangeness of his patient.
“He came from India specifically to thank me. He thanked me for treating his daughter some thirteen years ago. Just imagine – thirteen years!”
Sandy looked up as Pamela gazed at him. He smiled at her and said, “Well! Though I accepted his gift, I remembered nothing…”
Pamela was listening. An uncanny feeling gripped her.
“Think about this! He came to meet me after thirteen years, travelled all across the globe, waited for three hours in the reception and thanked me for some…” Sandy emptied the coffee cup and stood up.
“He gave me a gift which is kept on the bedside table. Check it out. If it is something good, keep it, or else…”
A cell where a piece of very vital and critical information was stored for many years, suddenly became active. Pamela had seen it only once the day she got married when she signed her marriage registration form along with Sandy…
Pamela went inside the bedroom. The gift was kept the same place where her letter was kept yesterday. She opened the box. It was a silver Nataraja Status – the symbol of Shiva, the Destroyer.
Pamela’s whole body froze. She was losing all her strength, and her feet were trembling. She felt extreme heat inside her ears and a chill down her spine.
She remembered what she had seen thirteen years ago on the day of her marriage, the Indian name of her husband before he changed it for Australia – Sundaram Yadav…
Arthur Freeman, 37, of Hawthorn, Melbourne, threw his four-year-old daughter, Darcey, off the bridge on January 29, 2009, on the way to her first day at school only to hurt his former wife.
Love is strange and mysterious. Maybe the most complex emotion of a human being. It has a mix of several emotions of human nature – greed, lust, ego, pain, happiness, joy, hatred, betrayal… and, most significantly – violence.
The Captain of the cruise started the countdown…
Sekhar looked up at the night sky.
Death would have been an easy escape for him. He deserved something much fearful and much more painful than that. And what could have been more painful than the fear of death? What could have been scarier than waiting each year with the uncertainty – will I live, or will I die?
Sekhar felt solace in his heart.
The countdown ended, and the Tour Manager announced at the loudspeaker – HAPPY NEW YEAR. The tourists were singing in the chorus – HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Sekhar felt his eyes were becoming heavy, and his sight was becoming hazy. He wiped the rolling drops of water from the corner of his eyes, looked at the Harbour Bridge where the spectacular fireworks declared the advent of a New Year, and he whispered to himself –
“Happy Birthday my Love… Happy Birthday, Spandan…”
Sudipto Lahiri, from Kolkata and Dhanbad, has explored his dreams and passion for writing, despite a busy working schedule. His novel And Miles to Go was published a few years ago to excellent reviews. He has also written several short stories. A collection of short stories is in progress for publication by the end of this year. A Civil Engineering graduate from Jadavpur University, he is currently working as Senior General Manager (Business Development in a Manufacturing Organisation in Kolkata). He is thankful to have his family by his side during life’s journey.