Raima and Anuradha revived their old relationship. Anuradha was only eighteen when forced to marry a wealthy man in his late thirties, supposedly of a high caste. All hell broke loose a year later when her brother Subroto died in an accident. Young Anuradha had to assume the responsibility of her ailing sister-in-law and her three-year old niece. If that wasn’t enough; her husband exploited the situation and became a much bigger burden for her.
The changed circumstances had a bearing on Raima’s growing up years. She tried to keep away from home and her uncle as much as possible. School was her refuge. By the time she was in her late teens, she became street-smart and ambitious. She planned for a life for herself and her mother. In college she developed a friendship with Natasha. Being of a helpful nature and a good influence on Natasha, Swapna took a liking to her. Moreover, she was enterprising and careful with money, Swapna realised that not only was Raima needy, but devoid of motherly love too. This brought them closer. Swapna encouraged Raima to take up odd jobs while pursuing a degree in architecture.
Raima completed her studies with flying colours and landed herself a prestigious job. She bought a flat with a loan from her office and the bank. Finally, she was able to set up her own home and offer the best nursing support to her bedridden mother.
Now with Rathin gone, the situation had changed. There was a collective sense of relief and for the first time, the Senguptas felt like one family. However, Natasha felt neglected. Swapna and Harry explained to her the importance of according the Senguptas the highest attention until such time that Rabindra convinced Anuradha to go away to Calcutta with him.
Swapna and Harry couldn’t help but think about the similarity between their relationship and that of Anuradha and Sanjib. In their case the bone of contention hadn’t been caste but the 20-year age difference.
Rabindra rued his insistence on getting his daughter married within the community. He has paid dearly for it by losing his only son and putting his daughter through a failed marriage. He was now concerned about Raima. She wasn’t getting any younger. It was high time she married and settled down with a person of her choice. He would not set any conditions.
Raima did not know how to react to grandpa’s outpouring. Seeing her plight, Anuradha came to the rescue and led her away to another room. Away from other members of the family, Anuradha asked her something she couldn’t in her father’s presence. It was about Shom! Raima was startled but realised immediately that she had nothing to worry about anymore. She opened up and told her aunt about Shom and she being soulmates through generations.
Anuradha was quick on the uptake. “You and Shom will not marry. He has a family and there’s a vast age-gap between the two of you.”
“We have gone over this many times. Harry kept Shom away from the court proceedings as he did not want our relationship to become public knowledge. We don’t meet at all. I have found happiness in my new-found love, Natasha. Hopefully, Shom has found solace in Anita. God has his own way of helping us.”
“We are fortunate to have had Harry with you all along. Without him, Rathin would have kept us away and you would have had to fend for yourself, as Baba wouldn’t have accepted a bedridden Assamese woman in his house,” said Anuradha.
“Anima was a good mother to me; as a three-year old I really missed her parenting after she lost her ability to communicate,” said Raima, breaking down.
Anuradha took Raima in her arms. Raima straightened up and blamed Harry for withholding the truth from her.
“How can you blame him? He had your best interests at heart.”
“I thought he loved me as a daughter and not just sympathised with me.”
Anuradha tried to say something but Raima cut her short. “You won’t understand, let it be.”
Anuradha changed the topic and asked, “Don’t you miss Shom?”
“Surprisingly not. Social pressures have torn us apart; we are grappling with our individual problems. Being soulmates, as our bond becomes stronger with passing day, our attachment diminishes. We live separate lives. Memories are all we have and they are so beautiful that they keep us going.”
“Will you marry Natasha?”
“No! I don’t want to cause another emotional upheaval. Besides, marriage is only for the insecure,” said Raima, clasping Anuradha’s hand. “Please tell me about Sanjib,” she added.
Anuradha shied away, saying, “Baba and Harry will wonder what we are up to.”
Raima caught hold of her. “You have to tell me; I have told you everything about myself.”
“I promise to tell you at the right time,” said Anuradha softly. “It’s risky to even think about it now,” she added, giving Raima a stern look as she went out of the room.
To be continued…