Days were just like nights in Kolkata in December. Smoke and fog making its way to the city streets and blurring even the nearest of the shops and houses. It seemed everyone was living alone, a life of solidarity. You couldn’t see anything beyond your own house. It was all smoky and foggy. Invisible. Seemed as if the entire city disappeared in clouds and every morning when she would walk towards her balcony, she would see only white. Smoke and fog.
Her youngest cat Laila walked towards her and climbed in her lap as she petted her soft furry back. The cat purred, meowed and the woman smiled. The red lipstick from last night was not as vibrant but a tint was still visible on her lips, and it seemed as if she was drinking blood from her cup which was actually full of hot coffee. It was a silent morning. No noise, not even birds chirping around. It had always been like this here. She wasn’t living in the hub of the city or in a crowded place, but she lived on the outskirts of the city, near a graveyard.
The land where she had her house was cursed and abandoned one and even bravest of the brave men feared entering its gates. Nobody would enter that area, but she was living there since many years now. Nobody knew when she shifted here, where she was born or why she chose this place, but the nearby locals knew her as a dangerous professor from a big University. She had to go abroad frequently for her lectures and educational trips, which was a part of her job. She lived alone in house number 13 with her 3 black cats. Snakes and bats were her regular companions. Who else can you expect from the nearest graveyard to visit you, anyways?
She was always dressed in black. Always. Not even a single time had anyone seen her dressed in any colour apart from black. Her big black eyes and long black hair, added to the scariness she carried along. She would always keep her hair open, line up her eyes with thick coat of Kohl and eye liner and her lips would always be red. Bloody red.
Her appearance was enough to scare anyone. Maybe she carried it because she wanted to make people understand that fear is just in our minds, and that scary looking people are also a part of the normal world and live a normal lifestyle just like anyone else, or maybe she was screaming inside to tell a story of her own.
Thirty Three Years Ago
1981 had just started and Rohtang was about to witness one of its coldest January in the history. Markets had closed down. Snowfall was abundant. All major highways were shut. Rohtang was disconnected from the rest of the country. There were only few telephone booths. Very limited houses had personal telephones and mobiles were not even in the thoughts of people back then.
A woman, eight months pregnant, stepped down the staircase of her tiny house with difficulty. She carefully covered her head with a shawl and wore a long overcoat till her ankles. Her face was pale. Lack of blood maybe or excessive cold? Her lips were torn at places. She opened her fist and counted the money she had. Eighty one rupees and fifty paisa. She counted again and meekly placed it in her bra, by pushing her cold hand into her overcoat. It was enough money to buy grocery for a few weeks, she thought and started walking. She had treaded only a few steps that a voice shocked her.
‘Sunaina…’ her husband shouted from the balcony.
The woman, shocked and terrified, turned around and slipped on the cold, snow-laden street and a loud scream filled the neighbourhood. The husband came rushing down. The woman’s water had broken and she started bleeding profusely. The white snow turned red in seconds.
‘Sunaina, oh my God, doctor, I need a doctor, someone call the doctor, my wife is pregnant, someone call the doctor, please.’ the man was sweating. Tensed and worried, he started searching the pockets of her overcoat. Nothing. He found nothing. Where was the money? He searched again. He brought her face near to his and whispered in her ear, ‘Where is my money?’
The woman didn’t answer but just screamed louder. Her husband was one hell of a prick. He would spend all his money in alcohol and cigarettes. His pregnant wife would have nothing to eat for weeks, and the man was least bothered. She would sneak out to buy some food, either in early morning, when he was asleep, or late in the night after he would pass out from drinking. Other than that, she was always with her husband, in the confinements of her house, which was now a jail for her.
Some men picked up the woman and took her to a doctor’s house nearby. Ambulances were not a common thing in 1981, especially in small towns like Rohtang. The doctor, who was not a maternity specialist, asked the people to take her in his basement, where there was a dirty chair and an equally dirty bed. The room was suffocated with no ventilation and dim lighting. The woman was screaming louder than ever, she was bleeding and the doctor was inexperienced, but there was no other hope. He pushed her legs apart and examined her closely. He could see the baby’s head. With bare hands, no gloves and no sanitizer, he pulled the baby out and cut its umbilical cord. It was a girl. He asked his assistant to clean up the baby, and as he moved towards the woman to hand her over the baby, she was already dead. He examined her, checked her vitals, the heartbeat had dropped down to zero. He injected some medicines into her arm, but all in vain.
‘Where is her father?’ the doctor took the baby out to the men who had brought the woman. He announced the woman’s death to them.
‘He may still be lying outside on the street, wait let me call him.’ one of the men came forward and rushed out.
The husband came, stumbling around, walking with difficulty. He was drunk and unconscious even now.
‘Here is your baby, it’s a girl. But I’m sorry I couldn’t save your wife. She couldn’t make…’
‘Thank you, doctor.’ the man interrupted him, ‘Where is my wife’s body?’
‘How shameful can you be? You have no grief for your wife?’ the doctor said.
‘Can I see her?’ the man was stubborn.
‘Her body is downstairs. You can take her and bury her.’ the doctor was almost choked.
‘Thank you.’ the man, who couldn’t even walk properly, reached the basement with the tiny baby in his hands and saw the woman who was neatly draped in a white cloth.
‘You bitch, you took my money. Where is it?’ the man started fumbling her pockets and her overcoat, he checked every clothing on her body but couldn’t find the money. He kept the baby aside, and then slithered his hand into her bra, and took out the money.
‘Ha! I knew it.’ the man coughed, slid the money in his trouser-pocket, picked up the baby from the shelf and walked out of the doctor’s house.
After walking for one kilometre, he could see his home at a distance. He could sniff all the alcohol waiting for him. He couldn’t wait to gulp every single drop, and so he started running in a zig-zag pattern. The baby in his arms, started crying.
‘Shut up, you!’ the man scolded the poor baby and couldn’t balance himself. He slipped in the same place where his wife had slipped a few hours back, but his head hit a hard rock and blood started gushing out. The man died on the spot. The baby stopped crying.
The little girl was picked up by a few locals, and nobody was willing to raise her. People called her daughter of Satan, born on 13th January, she killed both her parents right after she came into this world. She was admitted into a Christian orphanage and the sister who was in-charge of the orphanage, named her ‘Samantha’, after her mother ‘Sunaina’.
Samantha was always a quiet child. She never made any friends. She was close only to one person and that was the sister of the orphanage, who also died on Samantha’s fifteenth birthday. Since then, she considered herself unlucky, just like everyone else did.
She studied hard and moved to Kolkata to complete her higher studies. She excelled well and soon became the professor of psychology in the Kolkata University. Her deep rooted knowledge and excellent interpersonal skills made her even more popular and she was always in demand for lectures abroad. Her life since then, paced at a fast speed and she never looked back, until she met ‘him’.