The cold breeze in December makes it impossible to sit at Ghats but tonight Shashikant can neither feel breezes nor chilling cold. All his senses are dead. He himself is responsible for everything. Let Maa Ganga accept him tonight.
Shashi steps in the holy river. it is said that all your sins can be forgiven in Ganga. But he doesn’t believe his sins can be forgiven. Water is icy, which can freeze human veins in a minute or two. Does he deserve such an easy death? May be sooner it ends is better. Shashi steps down and down. There are no more steps. He will still have to walk few inches to get deep in river and deeper in death. He closes his eyes. His brain chilled out and froze. All memories vanished. Only the last picture flashed – dusky face with bright broad black eyes with a smile forever – Kanti!
Shashi and Kanti were no match for each other. Shashi is 6 ft. tall, fair, heavily built and a handsome guy. Kanti is only 5.1 ft., dusky and a very thin girl. Their nature and thought process are also different. Shashi is intelligent, with practical approach for life. Kanti is too emotional to use her intelligence in any manner, but she is an excellent Kathak dancer.
Only thing matching between these two are their cast and status. Both are Brahmin and child of professors. Shashi was proud of all the wealth management done by his father-in-law. Mr. Balbhushan Misra was a man of management not in teaching at university but also in his life and family. He owned two kothis in Varanasi – one at Assi Ghat and another at Lanka.
Shashi’s father was also a wealthy man but a father of five sons. Shashi was youngest. Mr. Prabhakar Tripathi was not ready for this match initially, as bride was not fair. He feared his grandchildren out of this match, might be short. But the ‘marriage bungalow’ at Assi Ghat made him say yes. After all, in Varanasi who would have said no to such a ‘laxmi’.
It was the bungalow for which both father and son agreed for marriage. Soon after marriage Shashi got busy in reconstruction work of bungalow and turned it into a hotel for foreign tourists. Shashi was Superintendent of Police (SP) in Varanasi. He knew exactly how to use his power to get hotel license approved and arrange all the money required for construction of hotel. His newlywed bride was as shy as a girl as he would have never met. Her beautiful eyes did most of the talking. She was a dance teacher in a government school. He always wished to see her dancing. But her was too shy to dance in front of her groom.
The more he came to know her, the more it puzzled him. How can such an innocent lady can still exist on earth? Who thinks that police is for the protection of common public and they survived on government pay. She bought only cotton saries and tried to save all her salary for the construction work of hotel. Can a hotel really be built on a school teacher’s salary? He kept all her contributions in a separate bank account opened in her name. He never talked to her about reality and practicality of world. He loved her innocence and took it as his responsibility to not let his dear wife face the real world.
The hotel was ready at their first marriage anniversary. Shashi got it inaugurated from his lovely wife. She had become his whole world, just in one year. His father and his father-in-law were very happy to see their son succeed. Opening of hotel was one task, but making it a foreign tourist destination was another big task. Foreigners wanted all luxuries in the hotel. They come to India, specially to a city like Varanasi, to enjoy not only religion but also things like marijuana, opium and off course Indian beauty. Shashi’s position was like a trump card – to make his hotel most desired tourist destination in the city.
Kanti gave birth to a beautiful girl – Kanya after four years of their marriage and then to a boy Shishir after seven years of their marriage. Kanya was dusky with beautiful eyes like her mother. Shishir was just like his father. Shashi found his wife as beautiful and innocent as she was on their marriage day.
Time never stops for anyone. Everything was going smoothly. Their children were studying in college. Shashi used to spend most of his time with his Kanti. He uses to visit the hotel once a day. Visit to police station was only during special circumstances. Kanti had left her job. She liked to cook for her husband and children.
Shashi got a call from hotel one day when he was having lunch with his wife. Tourists residing in hotel have bene creating trouble regularly. He left immediately, telling Kanti that he will be back soon.
As soon as he reached the hotel, manager was there to receive him.
Shashi: Om I have given you all the contact numbers and have introduced you too with them. Why do you call me every now and then, when you can directly call them?
Manager: Sir, it’s not a usual thing. A girl has been murdered by one of the guests. He has eloped but his father called. He is son of American ambassador.
Shashi: Oh God! Why didn’t you call the Police then?
Manager: Sir, his father offered Rs. 10 Crore to clear his son. So I thought of first talking to you.
Shashi: Saving his son would be secondary. First, we have to call the police and handover the dead body to them.
Manager: Sir, he said he will pay only if you burn the body on your own and not file police report. Otherwise, once it goes to police, he will pay lesser money to ministers.
Shashi: Hmm. How many staff members know about this?
Manager: Sir, Just the waiter, who saw the body and I.
Shashi: Where is the waiter?
Manager: Sir, I have locked him in the same room so that he can’t spread the news until you come.
Shashi: Why the same room? You don’t even have common sense. Locked him with dead body? What if he suffers heart attack? Go unlock him. Get the body brunt. You pay him Rs. 5 Lac and take him out of city for six month with you. No one else shall know about it. You will get Rs. 50 Lacs once you return to the city. Ok?
Manager: Very good sir! Will you see the body? Girl was his girlfriend studying with him in Sanskrit faculty. Very beautiful indeed, Sir.
Shashi: Poor Girl. They should know that being friends with foreigners could be very dangerous. No, I will not see her. Dead Bodies takes months to be erased from memories. Specially, young ones.
Shashi went to his friend’s house, the Deputy Superintendent Police of the city. He wanted to apprise him of the matter and to take care just in case police got smell of the matter. His friend was very happy with Shashi’s decision. After all, if he would not have agreed, someone else would have done this for money. They had dinner together and shared two pegs to wipe the incident off. Then Shashi returned to his house.
Kanti was waiting for him on the veranda.
Kanti: Where are you so late? I called to hotel, but manager said you left in the evening.
Shashi: I went to meet my friend, he insisted for dinner and I couldn’t refuse. Did you had your dinner?
Kanti: How can I? Your daughter has not yet come back home. I told you not to give her this much freedom. she lies a lot and misuse all she has.
Shashi: Don’t worry, its only 8.30 pm. She must be at her friend’s house. She will come home soon. It’s usual for her to come home by 10 pm. She is a grown up girl now.
Kanti: But her usual time is not a good time.
Shashi: Ok, Ok. I will talk to her tonight about this. Where is Shishir?
Kanti: He is the only one who listens to me. He is having his dinner.
Shashi: Your son listens to you, my daughter listens to me. it’s all equal. Come inside and have your dinner, she will soon come.
It was 11 pm but Kanya has not reached home. She was not at her friend’s house. Shashi was very nervous now. He called everyone.
No, she could not be my daughter. She hates foreigners, But she studies in Sanskrit faculty.
He should have checked the body. Somehow, he make Kanti sleep and then called his manager. Manager said body has been burnt and he is on his way to Delhi with the waiter. The girl was dusky, with beautiful eyes and long hair.
Shashi knew his sin now. It was his daughter. He left home and went to Ganga.
Sun was rising. Boatmen were making boats at the river. People were taking bath in the holy Ganga. Sounds of bells and holy chants were coming from morning arti at temples.
Kanti was pacing in her veranda. Her daughter had not come back home. Her husband had probably left home early, in search of his daughter. She decided to call all the relatives now and his son to go out, looking for his sister.
A police van came and stopped at her home. Kanti thought Shashi had come back. But that was her daughter Kanya, crying. Kanti’s heart sunk. What might have happened to her daughter?
Kanya: Mom, he killed my friend. My only friend, in our hotel. I told her not to trust foreigners …