Raima became famous overnight. She was invited to speak on women’s empowerment by citizen and social welfare groups the world over. As she was mulling over an invitation to an international women’s conference in Jaipur, she got a call. It was Anuradha, all excited about going to Calcutta.
“Calcutta! Pisima, you didn’t want to go there. What made you change your mind?”
“I will tell you when we meet. Your pitamaha is also happy that I am accompanying him.”
“Let’s meet for lunch,” said Raima.
They met at a newly-opened restaurant, Clearing House, close to Raima’s office in Ballard Estate. Raima couldn’t believe what she saw. She kept staring at her aunt; her eyes sparkling and her hand on her mouth in disbelief. All she could utter was ‘Pisima!’
“Come on!” said Anuradha in mock annoyance, “I have something exciting to say.”
Raima had never seen such joy on her aunt’s face before. Having been relieved of the burden of the past several years, she looked much younger than someone in her late forties.
“Sanjib is coming to Calcutta. He knows about Rathin and the court judgement. He has also been following the coverage you have received in the newspapers and on social media,” said Anuradha in one go.
Such was the excitement that the two of them gobbled up their lunch without savouring it.
“Is he coming with his family?” enquired Raima.
“No, he is coming to his family,” said Anuradha with a smile. “He’s not married.”
“Is he gay?”
“Not at all,” said Anuradha blushing and looking at Raima’s astonished face. “He’s been coming to India every six months or so and we meet every time he’s here.”
Raima could not believe this. Her own aunt? She had no idea. Poor pisima, how she had hidden her true self all these years.
“You were too little, but your dad and I were similar to each other. Very wild! He married his love and I was only allowed to dream of mine,” she said regretfully.
“That’s so true. Sanjib seems quite a guy and completely in love with you,” said Raima, so thrilled that she couldn’t control herself. She lifted her aunt in her arms in the middle of the packed restaurant. Everyone turned to see them, amused at the show of spontaneity. ‘Hey! What’s going on!’ they seemed to say.
Raima took her aunt shopping to Le Mill in Colaba. Anuradha looked lovely in the trendy outfits Raima made her try there. While objecting outwardly, Anuradha enjoyed being fussed over. She couldn’t help but turn emotional when Raima paid for the purchases. It reminded her of her brother Subroto, who would ply her with gifts. And now, years later, it was her niece doing the same thing.
Anuradha’s thoughts travelled to Harry and she said, “He is such a nice man, a godsend to us.”
Raima looked away and said, “I thought he loved me but now I know that he was only sympathetic toward me; that’s why he helped me so much.” Since Shom had brought them together, she wondered whether Harry had been good to her because of Shom.
“No, he did it all for your dad. Harry liked Subroto a lot and after him, he became protective of you. But for him, I would still have been in Rathin’s grip. I get a feeling our bond transcends births,” said Anuradha.
Raima nodded. “Harry is also a guru. His suggestions during the court proceedings were a big help. He knows how to get the best out of everyone.”
Raima’s phone rang. It was Natasha. She was going to Calcutta with Arjun while Raima was at the conference in Jaipur.
“My God, Arjun! He’s such a nice guy,” remarked Raima.
“Who is Arjun?” asked Anuradha.
“And what about the rest of Harry’s family?”
“No one knows. He never talks about them. His son is a handsome man who immerses himself in work, like his father. I wonder if Harry even knows about Natasha going to Calcutta with his son.”
Raima thought of Shom and how proud he would be of her achievements. She even thought of calling him, but held back. She didn’t want to upset pitamaha.
Shom too was thinking about Raima and how she had got the better of a giant like Joothmalani. Anita could sense it and to divert his mind, she involved him in a stretching match. The duel went on for a long time as neither wanted to give up. In the end both were exhausted.
“We have to keep at it to stay healthy,” said Anita panting. She fetched two glasses of fresh lime in water for Shom and herself.
She then explained the benefits of deep tissue massage and started working on Shom. She pressed hard at specific points and Shom howled in pain.
“This is to release the chronic muscle tension and reduce spasms. You are also suffering from anxiety and high blood pressure.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Shom.
“Not only because I am qualified to say so but also because I know you and your body well. I am a trained massage therapist. My job is to relieve muscle tension and stimulate your blood flow. This will reduce psychological stress and release serotonin and oxytocin, the hormones that contribute to a feeling of happiness.”
“Holy cow! You’re right,” he said, kissing her slender neck. She smiled and continued with the massage.
She pressed a point that hurt a bit and said, “There seems to be some inflammation I must take care of. A deep tissue massage is a collaborative effort. The painful sweet spots have to be discovered together.”
“There is one more spot on the left… oooh…yeah more… yeah good” said Shom. This went on for some time until Shom felt relaxed. Then he selected a point slightly above the thighs. “Go down a bit,” he said, “a bit more, now a bit on the left.”
“Grrr, you rascal,” she said and both burst out laughing before getting entangled in a kiss.
At that very moment, Shom’s phone rang. It was Raima!
To be continued…