Hello dear Readers and Listeners, this episode features a love story, well, a love story with paranormal shades. Some authors write paranormal romances. I am not sure if this story could fit within the folds of that genre, but I hope it entertains all kinds of fiction readers including those who love to read paranormal romances. In case you haven't already become a member of this website and joined my mailing list, I urge you to do so now. And also do post your comments on the stories and the performances. Your feedback helps me immensely to grow as a writer and podcaster. Enjoy the story.
Watch the Trailer of LOVE IS IN THE AIR:
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello, and welcome to OBSCURUS. My name is Biswajit Banerjee, and I am your host for this show. If you like love stories, today’s tale is just for you.
As always, before I start the story, I would like to request my readers and listeners to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com for information on my books, movies, and voice-over assignments.
I have another website obscurus.buzzsprout.com, which is totally devoted to this podcast. You will find all OBSCURUS episodes, their transcripts, and chapter markers for easy navigation on this website.
And now, let’s start the story. Raghav is deeply in love with Adrija but is unsure if venting his mind to her would be a good idea. What if she says no. Does he finally convey his feelings to her? Come, let’s find out.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR 00:02:08
Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee
Success! The Deputy Personnel Manager of the Bangalore unit of Prairie Publications called Raghav to convey the decision of the interview board to induct him as an Assistant Editor. What an achievement! A dream job was on offer. He didn't expect it to come as his interview didn't go too well. When asked as to why he wished to change his area of work — after all, he was an advocate and had practiced for six years in the High Court of Karnataka, and suddenly shifting to book editing without any formal training in that area didn't quite sound logical — Raghav couldn't give a convincing answer. The true reason was he hated being a part of the legal fraternity — it stank. Judiciary, he had come to believe, was plagued by human biases and politics to the degree whereby it could deliver everything but justice.
The reasons he gave for changing his career path were his immense love for books and his belief that with his kind of command over the English language, he could be an excellent editor. Though what he told the interview board were not untruths — he loved books and was proficient in English — but the interviewers sensed Raghav didn't divulge the whole truth.
One of the interviewers said, "Nothing stops you from reading books and putting your command over English to good use as a lawyer."
"But everything about judiciary stinks, fat old man," Raghav shouted inside his mind.
Perhaps his mental shout did reach out to the interviewer. "Looks like you are unhappy with what I said, but your words are not convincing, Mr. Raghav Subramaniam."
So, Raghav didn't expect the job to be offered to him. Even after a dozen reads of the offer of appointment, Raghav could not be sure he bagged the position. Oh, what a welcome relief from laws and legalities!
After Raghav submitted his acceptance of the offer to the Personnel Department, an executive took him around the publication house and showed him his cubicle. The duties Raghav was supposed to discharge matched his creative temperament. It was a dream job - the first edit of fiction manuscripts and coordination with the authors were his principal duties.
The executive also showed him the company's cafeteria. It was spacious and beautiful. The tables adjoining the glass windows were great places for drinking coffee.
"Today is your first day in the office. So, you can take things easy. Why don't you begin on a celebratory note with some coffee," the executive said.
"Thank you, I will."
"I will catch up with you later."
The hot coffee was a sheer delight. Raghav closed his eyes for a while, letting the flavor and aroma of the coffee sink deep in his being.
"Hello, Mr. Subramaniam," said a pleasant voice from a close range.
Raghav found a dark man in the chair across the table from him. With a big forehead caused by a receding hairline, a prominent nose, a lax jaw, and hair pulled tight into a bun, the man looked weird, to say the least. And of course, his sitting in the chair across the table from Raghav without asking him couldn't be reckoned as anything other than weird again. Shouldn't he have asked Raghav before sitting? The man lacked basic courtesy, it seemed. But Raghav's inferences about the man were wrong as he would soon discover. Contrary to what he thought, the man turned out to be warm, polite, and helpful.
"So, you have joined today," the man spoke again.
"How do you know my name and when I joined?"
"My name is Vipin Pradhan. I am the Head Cashier and Accountant in the Bangalore Division of Prairie Publications. My chamber is on the ninth floor, the top floor of this building. The administrative unit sent your papers to our unit so that we could prepare your salary bills."
"Oh, I see, Mr. Pradhan, and I am so glad to meet you."
"Glad to meet you too, Mr. Subramaniam. Have you met all your team members?"
"Not yet, but I hope to meet them soon."
"It's an excellent team. All your colleagues are learned and masters of their craft."
"Okay, but in that case, I might be the odd man out as I am completely new to the field of book editing."
"No need for worries; all your team members will help you. And there's this lady by the name of Adrija. She is one of the best editors in the country. Just by watching her work, you will learn a lot about book editing. In any case, as the head of the team, it is one of Adrija's responsibilities to train her new colleagues. So, rest assured, you will be in excellent company."
"Thank you so much; your words are so reassuring, Mr. Pradhan."
Mr. Pradhan was spot on about Adrija. What a woman she was — beautiful, brainy, disciplined, and kind! Raghav learned enough to do his work with precision in just a couple of weeks because of Adrija's brilliant insights into the craft of editing. By constant and correct use of the skills he picked up from the smart lady, Raghav soon came to be known as one of the best editors in the Bangalore Division.
Recognition and monetary incentives came in abundance. And also came in equal measure the pleasant sense of being in love. The smart lady's charm had stolen his heart away. But Raghav didn't possess the courage to approach and tell her his lot. Nothing but the editing work seemed to interest her. Surely, Adrija appeared impressed with Raghav for his editing talents and command over English, but it never looked like anything more than mere admiration for a gifted colleague. What if his approach to express his feelings turned out to be his greatest mistake? A no from her was the last thing he needed.
For several months, Raghav kept his heart in check. The weight of the unexpressed feelings on his heart grew by the day, and the pressure, Raghav feared, might result in a sudden and severe impact on his performance at the Prairie Publications. But telling Adrija might make things worse. At least by not telling her, he could live the hope, even if it was a false one, that someday he and Adrija would be together. The hope might crash to a terrible death if he told her, and she said no. With the death of this hope, he would die too — not the physical he but the spiritual he, the essence of his being.
His ruminations stopped when a cafeteria attendant came and served a cup of coffee.
After Raghav took a sip of his coffee, he saw a man entering the cafeteria and walking towards his table, flashing a broad smile at him. Both the man and his smile were familiar. Oh, the man was Mr. Vipin Pradhan! How could Raghav not recognize him earlier? Though he and his team members had little to do with the Cash and Accounts Unit of the company, the memory of Mr. Pradhan getting bleak was strange. The matters of the heart were of little use to his brain.
"Hi, Mr. Subramaniam, how are you?"
"Fine, how are you?"
"I will order some coffee for you."
"Oh, no, no, I am in no mood for coffee."
"How about some tea?"
"No, I am not fond of tea."
"Not even that."
"Then what I am doing in the cafeteria; you aren't sure, isn't it?"
"Okay, let me explain — I take a break after every hour of work. The best way to use a break is to walk around. There aren't too many open spaces in this building. This cafeteria and the parts of the corridor it leads to are the best places for strolling. So, you will find me walking through the cafeteria roughly at intervals of one hour. These breaks, I must say, are my lifelines. The desk jobs are dangerous — I am sure you understand that. The hourly walks help me avoid spine issues."
"Oh, so you are very health conscious."
"Yes, I am, Mr. Subramaniam, and so should you be. The kind of jobs we do could kill us early. So, you too must take breaks often."
"Thank you so much. This is a useful piece of advice."
"Hey, look at me, I just forgot."
"What, Mr. Pradhan?"
"Congratulations on your accomplishments. Our unit convened a meeting last Friday, which was also attended by one of the senior managers of the Fiction Editing Division. When the performance of the new employees came up for discussion, the senior manager said wonderful things about you. Mr. Subramaniam is performing better than editors with two decades of experience; Mr. Subramaniam is a true asset to Prairie Publications; Mr. Subramaniam this; Mr. Subramaniam that — he just kept praising you. And he also said the top management is thinking of giving you more financial benefits. So, you have taken the company by storm, haven't you, Mr. Subramaniam?"
"Thank you so much, Mr. Pradhan."
"Your team members are helpful, aren't they?"
"Of course, they are."
"And what do you think about Adrija?"
"What can I say about Adrija? She is a phenomenal fiction editor."
"Did she train you?"
"Yes, Mr. Pradhan, she did. In fact, I could never have excelled at the editing work without her support."
"Adrija is a wonderful lady, isn't she?
"Without the slightest doubt, she is."
Another month passed — Raghav continued to impress the seniors with his work, but his intelligence and amiable nature seemed to leave little impact on Adrija. The heart's pangs were turning unbearable, but the fear of no prevented him from approaching her. At times Raghav wondered if his thoughts found their way out through his eyes. Love, after all, doesn't stay hidden for long — goes an old maxim.
The maxim proved to be true in his case. In the following month, at least on five occasions, Raghav couldn't pay attention to Adrija's instructions as a team leader during the regular team meetings. Lovely flowing hair over her bare shoulders, the confident gaze of her dark black eyes, sharp nose, full lips with the perfect cupid's bow, and her pointed chin had captivated all his mind leaving no space for meaningful participation in the meetings. In each of these meetings, when Adrija asked Raghav to give his views on some specific issues she mentioned, he cut a sorry figure. And on each of these occasions, the expressions of his colleagues clearly suggested they gauged what was playing in his mind. Couldn't she understand?
Before long, the truth spread far and wide though he hadn't spoken a single word about what he felt for Adrija to anyone. Gossips filled the air, and Adrija's expressions indicated she was unhappy with the goings-on and that she held Raghav responsible for what was happening.
The mental distractions finally impacted Raghav's performance as a fiction editor. In one of the first drafts by a noted author, some obvious mistakes escaped his eyes. What followed would beat his darkest nightmares. With disappointment writ large on her face, Adrija walked over to Raghav's cubicle and literally threw the manuscript before him.
"What happened, Adrija?"
"Skim through the changes I made to the novel's draft."
A quick skim of the changes was enough to understand how bad his work had been on the first draft of the book.
"Sorry, I can't tell how this happened."
"I want you out of the team, Raghav. There is no place for people like you in my team."
Waves of shock raced past his spine, and Raghav sensed his rapidly beating heart.
"But Adrija ..."
"Please leave and report to the administrative unit. They will place you in a new team."
"Aren't you being too harsh with me? This is my first slip-up."
"Do you understand what slip-ups of this nature can do to the reputation of our team?"
"As far as I understand, every editor makes mistakes. And in any case, two other editors, including yourself, were supposed to check the draft after I cleared it."
"What a sick thing to say! Only because two other editors were supposed to check the draft after you cleared it, you had all the freedom to do a shoddy job — isn't that what you are saying?
"No, I didn't mean that."
"Look, I don't wish to discuss the matter any further. My sole intention of coming over is to tell you I have lost confidence in you. Leave now."
Though the Deputy Personnel Manager doubted if Adrija took the correct decision, he decided to respect her views and didn't attempt to send Raghav back to her team. After a couple of days, the administrative unit placed him in a team that edited non-fiction books on law. What a terrible posting! Dealing with the law again was no less than a nightmare. All the trauma resulted from Adrija's unfair decision. For her to act vindictively came as a surprise. The gossips about Raghav's interest in Adrija must have caused her a lot of mental disturbance. So, she exacted the revenge at the earliest opportunity.
The first week of his work in the new team didn't go smoothly. Raghav made quite a few mistakes. The team leader was a short-tempered man, and he didn't mince his words when he spotted the errors.
If things continued this way, it would not be long before the company served a notice on him. No matter what, Raghav had to change the direction of the tide. Ineptitude was not the cause for the mistakes he was making those days. He understood editing quite well by now. This understanding, coupled with his firm command of English, left little chance for errors to happen. The errors were happening because his mind was unprepared to let go of the thoughts of Adrija. Strange are the ways of love — despite what Adrija did to him, he still loved her. Raghav understood that though a direct rejection didn't come his way, her conduct was a clear indication of her not being interested in him in the least. Yet, his hope of Adrija's reciprocating his feelings was alive. So, the essence of his being was alive too.
As Raghav slowly paced the cafeteria with a cup of black coffee in his hands, a friendly voice brought him out of his cogitations.
"Hello, Mr. Subramaniam."
Raghav turned around and found Mr. Pradhan walking towards him with a cup of coffee.
"Hi," Raghav said, "so you have gotten into the mood for coffee today."
"Yes, and how's your job going?"
Mr. Pradhan positioned himself in front of Raghav.
"Well, I can't answer that question."
"You sound troubled, Mr. Subramaniam."
After a few moments of silence, Raghav responded, "You must be aware I have been placed in a new team."
"Yes, I am aware of that. Are you unhappy about the new posting?"
"I am unhappy, Mr. Pradhan."
"Why? Isn't the new team good?"
"Well, it appears to be a good team, but I am not happy about editing non-fiction books on law. As a lawyer, I dealt with law enough; I don't need any more of it."
"Umm-hmm, I can understand. But why don't you try getting back into Adrija's team?"
"That is out of the question."
"Why do you think so?"
"Perhaps you are not aware of what happened."
"I am aware of what happened. For some reason, Adrija was upset with you and asked you to leave her team."
"Oh, so, you know it all?"
"Yes, I do."
"Then what makes you think she will take me back?"
"Come on, Mr. Subramaniam, such small things cannot cause permanent breaks in professional relationships. What she did to you might have been due to some sudden burst of anger. Perhaps you should talk to her and clear things up."
"But I don't feel like talking to her."
"Isn't the answer quite obvious — she insulted me."
"So, you have begun to hate her?"
"You don't hate her?"
"Well, I mean, why should I ... Adrija did what she thought was right ... and she is free to keep the team of her choice. Why should I hate her?"
"But she insulted you."
"Yes, she did, but I still don't ... well, I see no reasons why I should hate her."
"That means ..."
"That means you love her, Mr. Subramaniam."
"With all due regards to you, Mr. Pradhan, I got to say you are crossing your limits. What you just said was sick. I don't expect a gentleman like you to be making such statements."
"Sorry about crossing my limits, Mr. Subramaniam, but I don't think what I said was wrong."
"Gossips must have fallen into your ears."
"Forget about the gossipers and the gossips. Treat me like an elder brother and answer my question — don't you love her?"
A few moments of silence passed. No doubt, Mr. Pradhan's words were full of brotherly love. For a moment, Raghav felt like clinging to him and crying — Yes, yes, brother, I love her — he wanted to tell him."
"Answer my question, Raghav. Don't you love her?"
"Will the answer be of any consequence, Vipin?"
"Give a clear reply to my question, don't ask a question in response."
"Good to see that you have spoken the truth. Now, listen to me — visit Adrija's place and tell her what you feel about her. Not that she doesn't know it already, but perhaps she expects you to speak it out — loud and clear."
"But Vipin ..."
"There is no place for buts; simply give her a glimpse of your heart."
"What if she says no?"
"She will not say no."
"How are you so confident?"
"I have a strong intuition that she also loves you. She is a wonderful girl, Raghav. Too much professionalism has made her cold and insensitive at the surface. But deep inside, she is like a flower — sweet and beautiful. Don't worry about what she said to you. Trust me, she didn't mean any of it."
"Fine, Vipin, I will go by your advice. I will visit her place tomorrow."
"Why tomorrow? Why not today in the evening?"
"Well, okay, but if she says no."
"Trust me, she will not. But remember, you got to be confident."
With trepidation running in his nerves, Raghav pressed the doorbell. After a minute, Adrija opened the door."
With surprise in her eyes, she said, "You!"
"Hello, Adrija," he said, trying to project his most confident self.
"Is there something important?"
"Can I come in for a while?"
After a brief spell of silence, Adrija made way for him to move in. The living room was neatly decorated — sofas arranged in the shape of a C with a glass table occupying the center of the space within the arrangement. A couch with intricate wooden carvings was on the other side of the room, sandwiched by two delicately designed floor lamps. A collage of photographs on a rectangular frame occupied a prominent part of the wall above the couch. For sure, the room indicated a rich taste.
"Please sit down; I will get you some tea."
Raghav sat on the couch as she moved into the open kitchen a little ahead of the living room.
After they finished their tea and snacks, Raghav said, "Do you live here alone, Adrija?"
"They live in Rajkot."
"I, too, live alone like you. My parents live in Jamshedpur."
"Okay, so what brings you here?"
"Well, I am sorry for what happened that day, Adrija. Those mistakes in the manuscript shouldn't have escaped my eyes."
"Please don't apologize. To tell the truth, later I felt bad about what I said to you. So, I am the one who should be saying sorry."
"Oh, no, you don't need to apologize. Let's keep the past behind us."
"So, how's the new team?" Adrija asked after a brief spell of silence.
"What if I say the old team was better?"
Adrija looked down and then looked up again at him. "Do you wish to come back?"
"Okay, I will ask the administrative unit to put you back in my team."
"Thanks. Can I ask you to do something more for me?"
"Sure, go ahead."
"Marry me, Adrija."
"You heard me — marry me, Adrija."
"Impossible; you must not be saying such things."
"Why not? I love you, and you know I love you, don't you?"
"Yes, and ever since I got a hint of it, I wished you started hating me."
"And you misbehaved with me thinking I would start hating you. You are a crazy girl. Our bond of love is so deep that such petty things cannot affect it."
"Please stop this lunacy, Raghav. I don't appreciate this at all."
"Well, I am just venting my feelings. If you say no, I will respect your decision and not bother you anymore."
"But you hardly know anything about me."
"All I need to know is I love you."
"Don't, please don't say those words again and again." Adrija's voice broke as tears emerged in the corners of her eyes.
"Why are you crying?"
"Sorry, Raghav, but I am not the right woman for you."
"Let me decide who's the right woman for me."
"Why don't you understand?"
"What is there to understand?"
"Raghav, I am a widow."
"So what? That doesn't change my feelings for you."
"But he doesn't want it, Raghav."
"Who doesn't want what?"
"My husband does not want me to get married again. He is very possessive about me."
"I thought he is dead."
"Yes, he is, but he is back in our world. Since the time I met you, he has been moving around me."
"What are you saying, Adrija? Are you in your senses?"
"I knew you wouldn't believe me. Though I can't see my husband, I can sense his presence all around me. He is trying to prevent me from getting married to you."
"It can't be. You must be making a mistake."
"Look at the collage behind you — sometimes it appears my husband is watching me through those pictures. He doesn't want me to be married again, and I respect his wishes."
Raghav stood up and gazed at the collage behind him. The man figuring in many of the pictures of the collage was familiar — could it be him? Yes, it was him — Mr. Vipin Pradhan.
"What's Vipin doing with you?" He asked, facing her.
"Did you know Vipin?" Adrija said with a touch of surprise.
"Of course, I know him. Vipin works in the Cash and Accounts Unit of Prairie Publications."
"No, Raghav. He never worked in the Prairie Publications. Vipin was a businessman who dealt in garments."
"But I see him often in the office."
"What? Did you say you often see him in the office?"
"Yes. We are friends. I enjoy talking to him. But why do you find it so unbelievable.?"
"Raghav, Vipin was my husband. He died because of congenital heart disease."
Shock waves moved up Raghav's spine. For a long time thereafter, nobody spoke. By the time Raghav regained his balance, he knew the exact truth.
"Listen, Adrija, now I understand everything. Indeed, the spirit of your deceased husband has been moving around you since the time the two of us met. But he wasn't hanging around you to prevent our marriage. On the contrary, he was trying to tell you that you should marry me. I, too, met Vipin ... I mean, I met his spirit several times. Trust me — I just didn't see him but also talked to him. Perhaps, such close interactions became possible because I am sensitive to spirit phenomena. Now I can tell what he has been trying to do ... all along, he has been trying to bring us together. Vipin is a noble soul, Adrija. Noble souls are not plagued by narrow feelings such as possessiveness and jealousy. Our marriage will be a true tribute to him.
Raghav moved close to Adrija and placed his arms around her waist.
"I love you, Adrija."
"Say it again."
"I love you."
In Adrija's teary eyes, he found the acceptance of his love.
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!