Short Story [S1E14] – Shom and Raima: The Only Way Out
Recap of Short Story [S1E13] – Shom and Raima alias Sara: The conversation about how Shom and Raima first met, continues. While Raima operated as Sara, Shom’s real identity is revealed by Khush. Shom shares with the group the text of his initial chats with Raima. The two take to one another quickly and the exchange leads to the point where they decide to meet up.
Raima got so engrossed in the chat that she was completely lost to the world. Shom noticed this and immediately took her away for a drive on Palm Beach Road. They decided to live their past for some time to recoup their energies and move forward with renewed spirits.
In retrospect, they knew that they were worlds apart. They decided to reflect on their ten-year old relationship and how to balance it with love, to defy the world that was tearing them apart.
10 years earlier
Sara spotted Shom the moment he entered the Taj. He walked towards Nalanda bookstore, looking nervous, avoiding people and their gaze.
“Hi Shom,” she said, coming out of the store to greet him. He appeared similar to how she had imagined him to be.
He didn’t answer. His face bore an expression of uncertainty. It was as though he wasn’t sure if it was his name he had just heard. May be he doesn’t like me, she wondered. Then just to be sure, she gave him a look that would be out of place in a children’s book.
“Are you Sara?” he asked, his eyes flitting around the store.
“Yes Shom, I am Sara,” she said with a sexy smile and a hug. He struggled to take his eyes off her. She liked him instantly. He seemed to be a nice-looking and decent kind of guy; she hoped he liked her too.
“So, what do you think?” she asked, doinga little twirl.
“You look too stunning for me to figure that out,” he said. The white top accentuated her delicate curves while her stretch denims showed off her long, slender legs that balanced on glossy red stilettos.
She smiled, relieved to know he foundher good-looking. “Where do you want to go?” she enquired.
“I don’t know,” he replied, looking unsure of himself.
“Why do you have such a dazed look on your face? You are a great-looking, distinguished man. What could you be perturbed about?” she asked.
“I didn’t expect you to be so young. I was hoping you had faked your age on Facebook in order to attract attention. I expected an older person. On the chat you gave the impression of being experienced and mature in your thinking,”he confessed, a bit taken aback. “Honestly, I feel a bit awkward in the company of such a gorgeous young girl like you.”
“Well, I am experienced and mature. How would you like me to change my looks and ways to suit your expectations?”she asked.
“No, please don’t change. You look like a sexy angel,” he said and lowered his face to her palm to kiss it. Sara was moved. There was an instant chemistry between them.
“Come, let’s go someplace,” she said, taking him by his hand.
“Wait, let’s not rush this. I cannot be seen here with you. Let me think, give me a minute.”Saying that, he turned to walk away.
Sara understood his plight and although she could have made some suggestions, she decided to give him some space.
“I will see you here in ten minutes. I’m going to the ladies,” she said.
Shom swung into action. He knew that booking a room at the Taj or any other hotel post 26/11 meant disclosing his identity. His only answer was Khush and the Land Yacht.
“Hey Khush, I want the yacht,” he called on his cell.
“No I want it now – can’t wait for an hour or two. Don’t tell me you need that much time to organise the crew and the rest. That’s fuckin’ shit, man!”he added.
He knew what would get Khush to expedite matters. So he related the whole story. Khush was the only person in his life he could totally confide in; a friend who would always come to his rescue. Khush, true to his reputation, went all out and managed to send the Land Yacht to the hotel gate in under thirty minutes.
The Land Yacht was a paradise on wheels, designed to be a motor home and a lounge bar. This, as Shom knew so well, was kept fully equipped at all times with everything you would need – from beds to tables, sofas, music, a chemical toilet and a huge LED screen, basically, the works. The driver, an ex-military man, would follow instructions to the letter almost like a robot. Shom and Khush often used the Land Yacht; especially when they partied till late.
Shom helped Sara board the huge motor home. He was puzzled looking at her; she looked apprehensive.
“Don’t you like it?” he asked.
“Yes, but I did not expect this luxury. This is amazing.” Her eyes were adjusting to the opulence inside the van.
Lowering the opaque glass on the right, Shom asked the driver to take them to Khandala.
“Is that okay with you, Sara?”
Sara nodded but she was still dazed. Shom could have given the instructions to the driver on the intercom but he preferred to make eye contact. He lowered the glass on the other side where a gunman sat alongside a German Shepherd with his long tongue sticking out. He gave Shom a welcome bark, all excited about the journey. The van was always set and armed to go into the jungles or remote areas, if and when Khush and Shom decided to go on one of their adventure expeditions.
Shom and Sara were on their way to Khandala, a scenic hill station on the way to Pune. Shom was finally at home in these familiar surroundings. Now he had to make his lady relax. He put on some soothing music and pulled out a bottle of sparkling wine from the fridge. Sara’s eyebrows lifted in surprise and delight.
Khush had the place so immaculately organised, that even a bucket of crushed ice was available at hand. Shom poured the wine into two glasses and shoved the bottle into the ice to chill. They relaxed on the couch, sipping their wine. Raima moved closer to him. She felt ensconced in this moving cocoon of total privacy that completely blanked out the harsh sun outside, the traffic, the driver and the armed attendant in front.
“This belongs to a friend,”Shom said, interrupting the silence. “I’m not that rich, so please consider that when you charge me for your time,” he winked.
Those beautiful eyes that searched his face as he spoke, dropped lower and looked the other way. Feeling bad, Shom leaned in to hug Sara but she placed her hand between them.
‘”I am a lonely girl and my purpose was to meet a nice man like you. If I wanted to sell my looks, I would have uploaded a gallery with hundreds of my photos in every possible posture. And if you must know, I’m doing quite well for myself. I have a 1000 sq. ft. apartment atWorli Sea Face. I am a graduate in architecture from Sir J.J. School of Art and Architecture. And I live with my mom who is bedridden,”she said, sounding hurt. She blinked and turned away.
“You are an architect?”Shom was impressed. “Please don’t waste your time with me.”
Sara laughed. “Don’t worry, I am doing quite well now. It’s not possible to get an architectural assignment unless you are a daughter of a renowned architect. But I’m using my degree to the fullest to get some assignments that are quite fulfilling.”
She seemed happy but soon her face turned sad.“I had a miserablechildhood.”
Shom wanted to know all about it but he felt some reluctance from her side. “Did you not promise to tell me everything I wanted to know?”he asked.
“I am not denying that. I just don’t want to spoil the nice time we are having. After all you’ve put in a lot of effort and I don’t want to bore you with my past,”she said.
Shom could not imagine a beautiful and talented girl of only twenty-four having an embittered past. He was eager to know so he insisted.
“All right,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “My real name is Raima, RaimaSengupta.”
And then she related her story of her miserable past that she had not shared with anyone. When she was done, she looked Shom in the eye. He knew his eyes were moist. She snuggled up to him and sang in a melodious voice, “Don’t cry for me my loved one…”
He laughed and hugged her tightly. With the wine nudging them on, they were in great spirits. He was surprised and yet in awe what Sara, no, what Raima had to reveal further. She told him how she had decided to take the bull by the horns and exploitthe weakness of men who usually saw her from only one point of view. Sex! This would probably make her a hooker, Shom thought, but with a difference. And he, on the other hand, felt like her sugar daddy.
To be continued…