Hello Dear Readers and Listeners, it is such a pleasure to write and narrate stories for you. You can support my efforts by becoming a member of this website, and subscribing to my mailing list. In today's story, a girl, for strange reasons, rejects a marriage proposal. What are her reasons of refusal? Read on or listen to know the answer, take care
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. Dear Readers and Listeners, I will be glad if you visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com and become a member of the site. Also, do join my mailing list.
For this podcast, there’s a dedicated website – obscurus.buzzsprout.com. You will find all the OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts on this website.
Let’s plunge into the story now. Anuradha refuses to marry Puneet. She says there’s a reason why their marriage would not work. What’s the reason? Come, let’s find out.
THE PROSPECTIVE BRIDE 00:01:47
Written and presented by Biswajit Banerjee
With clear traffic, it took him only twenty minutes to drive from the office to Joseph's café. In the next five minutes, Puneet maneuvered the car to one of the available spots, locked it, and obtained a coupon from the man in charge of the parking lot. Two minutes more it took him to go up the stairs, walk through the lobby and move into Joseph's café, the best place for filter coffee in Delhi. Within thirty minutes, he had made it to the café, exactly as he had thought. No wonder he deemed himself adept at time management.
The mobile phone rang.
"Yes, Mama," he said on the phone.
"Couldn't you start a bit early from the office? The poor girl is waiting for you."
"But Mama, I just reached. You know how punctual I am, don't you?"
"Reached! So soon."
"Didn't I tell you the journey takes less than thirty minutes?"
"Should you choose to drive at a speed of a hundred, why not?"
"Come on, Mama, I never drive so fast."
"She is beautiful, isn't she?"
"Mama, I am yet to meet her."
"Listen now, this time I must hear a 'yes, do you understand that?"
"Mama depends upon ..."
"Trust me, you wouldn't get a better girl — she is beautiful and intelligent."
"Take it easy, Mama. I am hanging up now, will call you later."
Puneet put the phone in his pocket and looked around him. Spotting her was easy — she was sitting next to a large glass covering that offered the view of the world outside.
When Puneet's mother had shown him the picture, he wasn't sure if the girl would be as beautiful as she appeared in the photograph. These days even a free photo editor can make ordinary people appear divine.
"Is she really so beautiful?" Puneet had asked his mother.
"You will find it for yourself when you see her next week."
"Do you think such perfection is possible? I doubt."
Well, Puneet's doubts were, in one sense, vindicated, for the girl was far more beautiful than how she appeared in the picture. For some time, he stood still watching her stunning beauty. Hair flowing over her slender neck and shoulders, dreamy eyes, sharp nose, full lips, and flawless skin — she was more than a demigoddess.
"Hello, I am Anuradha," she said, standing up.
"Hello ... Oh, please sit down, my name ... I am Puneet."
It needed some effort to force himself out of the trance-like state he got into. With a sweet welcoming smile, Anuradha adjusted her chair and sat. As Puneet pulled the chair on his side of the table, he cursed himself for such cumbersome behavior. Anyway, it was time now to hide the embarrassment and regain his confident look.
"Sorry if I kept you waiting."
"It hasn't been too long for me — no need to apologize," she responded in her mellifluous voice.
The girl's grace and royal poise were difficult to match. However, her friendly demeanor comforted Puneet as their conversation progressed.
"My mother told me you are a teacher," Puneet said.
"Yes, I teach mathematics in the senior classes at Saint Peterson School, and you, I believe, run a business."
"Right, I run an advertising agency."
"Running your own business must be giving you a lot of pleasure."
"There are no bosses I need to report to, a huge plus, but it needs a lot of hard work."
"Yes, I understand." She nodded. "Business can be demanding."
After some time, an attendant served coffee and cakes. The girl, Puneet sensed, had wonderful vibrations as their talks progressed. Anyone could tell she had a caring nature: what a rare combination — beauty, wisdom, and kindheartedness. Yes, yes, yes, this is the girl I want to marry, she is the one, she is the one. The more Puneet talked to her, the more he wanted her in his life. It was now time to get to the point.
"So Anuradha," he spoke with some hesitation, "will December be a good time for the marriage?"
It took Puneet a while to gather his wits after being stung by the most unexpected question.
"Well, I mean our marriage if everything works out well."
"No, Puneet, no, we are not getting married.
This was more than a rejection. Stiffness crept into Puneet's limbs as he tried digesting the insult.
"I never thought you would reject me so quickly."
"Oh, no, no, I am not rejecting you, Puneet. All I am saying is our marriage will not work."
"Why do you think so?"
"Well, there's a reason."
"You wouldn't like to know that."
"I need to know."
"Sorry, I can't tell you the reason."
"It would be better if you chose to tell the truth, Anuradha. Say it clearly — you don't think I am the right man for you. It's understandable — you have formed a picture of a husband — and I don't fit into that picture. Telling lies is unnecessary, don't you think so?"
"I don't tell lies."
"Please come clear."
"The truth won't please you; I can promise you that."
"Still, I wish to know the truth."
"Don't force me, Puneet. Let me go home."
"Who gave you the right to waste my time like this? If you knew all along marriage was ruled out for whatever reason you don't want to disclose, why did you choose to meet me?"
"My parents forced me. I didn't want to come; I don't wish to meet any boy."
"Whatever, I am leaving."
"Sorry, Puneet, your anger is justified, but I can't help."
"Yes, you made your point clear."
The attendant came with the bill, Puneet paid it, smiled, and got up.
"Can you drop me at Saint Thomas Square?" Anuradha said as she stood up.
"Haven't you got your car?"
"No, I sent my car for servicing."
"Well, Saint Thomas Square will be off the way for me ..."
"No problem, I will take an auto-rickshaw or something, thanks."
The rejection shouldn't make him so unkind and rude — Puneet reasoned as he walked towards the café door. Composure, composure, composure, dear boy, don't be so uncouth — you also rejected many girls — think how they felt.
"Saint Thomas Square is not too far. Come along," Puneet said, walking back to her.
"The traffic might have gotten heavy. You will get late."
The apologetic look in her eyes cooled his mind somewhat. Also, for reasons unknown, he felt sorry for the girl.
"Never mind, come with me."
"What will you do from Saint Thomas Square?" Puneet said as he drove the vehicle out of the parking lot.
"One of my friends lives close to the Square. I will ask her to drop me home. Going by a metro train or a bus at this hour is not a bright idea — too much crowd, you see."
"Have you spoken to her already?"
"No, I will call her once I am at the square."
"What if she is not available?"
"Then I will manage something."
Why I am feeling sorry for her, she rejected me a while back. What makes me take pity on her? Oh, come on, boy, you must not refrain from gentlemanly conduct because she rejected you. That will be gross on your part — you are Puneet, Puneet Sahai — civility and graciousness are your strengths.
"Don't worry, I will drop you," he said.
"Oh, no, Puneet, you will be late for home; I will do something."
"Sister Nivedita Enclave is where you live, don't you? Type your location on the GPS on my mobile."
"Do it, please."
Shortly after she put the location on Puneet's phone, she straightened her back against the seat and closed her eyes.
"This road is bad, too many bumps," Puneet said as he drove through Fateh Bagh, a place known for its old monuments and schools for religious instructions. The GPS showed another half an hour to reach Sister Nivedita Enclave.
When his words found no response, he turned his gaze at her.
Sleeping Beauty! Did Charles Perrault visualize someone like you when he authored 'Sleeping Beauty'? Who are you, O Adorable One? Whence have you come?
The FM channel played a lovely Taylor Swift song, but he lowered the volume lest Anuradha's sleep got disturbed. After adjusting the volume when he looked up, he spotted some men standing right in the middle of the road at some distance. There were five of them. Upon seeing the car, they spread over the breadth of the road to prevent the vehicle from going past them. Apparently, his was the only vehicle on the road.
What luck! When I need traffic, there will be none.
Two of those men walked up to the car after Puneet applied the brakes. Each had a rod.
"What's the matter," Puneet asked pulling the window glass down.
"Come out," a goon said, moving his hand in the space between the glass and the sill and grabbing Puneet's collar.
"What are you doing?"
The other man touched the rod with Puneet's head.
"Didn't you hear him? Come out," he shouted, pressing the rod on Puneet’s scalp and rotating it.
"Please move back; I am coming out."
Puneet unlocked the door and moved out of the vehicle.
"Won't you like to see his face, Bhaijaan?" the man who moved the rod in said.
Meanwhile, the other three had also come over. It was easy to guess that the goons addressed the heftiest amongst them as 'Bhaijaan.'
"What the hell will he do looking at his face," the goon who held his shirt collar said with an ugly laugh, "I think Bhaijaan will be more interested in looking at the female."
"Who's that sleeping girl in the car, your wife?" Bhaijaan cast his lusty eyes on Anuradha.
"Mind your own business." Puneet sensed the heavy pounding of his heart.
With a finger scratching a black mark on his forehead, Bhaijaan peeped inside the car.
"Oh, she's a houri, a sleeping houri. Lucky man." He ran a finger on the front placket of Puneet's shirt, "Laying her must be such great fun."
"Please let us go."
"Why? So that you could have the girl all to yourself?"
"Should I wake her up, Bhaijaan," another of the goons chipped in with a suggestion, "she deserves a man like you."
"No, you don't need to take the trouble; he will wake his wife up for me." Bhaijaan gave Puneet a threatening gaze.
The door on the other side opened, and Anuradha got out of the car. She walked around the front of the vehicle and went close to Bhaijaan.
"One of the seventy-two houris from the Jannat, I am sure."
"Do it with her Bhaijaan; she deserves you," a stooge commented.
After scratching the black mark on his brow again, Bhaijaan moved his fingers close to Anuradha's cheeks. Without a doubt, he regretted his action — Anuradha first broke his finger and then grabbed hold of his neck and pressed it hard.
"Ahhhhh....urggg." The man groaned.
"Hey, you bitch, leave Bhaijaan."
A stooge moved forward to help him but then had to help himself — Anuradha's punch, with the other hand, made his nose bleed. Then the other three tried to pull her away from their Bhaijaan. She released him and turned to face the three stooges. A rain of kicks and punches followed. Within a couple of minutes, those three were grounded; well, maybe 'buried' would be a better expression. The first recipient of Anuradha's punch, the one with a bleeding nose, got up only to find himself back on the ground again. In a flash, she reached him and unleashed a rain of punches on his nose and mouth. Were any of his teeth left — Puneet couldn't tell.
"This woman is not a houri; she is a demon, Bhaijaan, run for your life," one of the three 'buried' men said.
"Yes, run, Bhaijaan, she is Iblish's daughter," another 'buried' man said.
By now, their Bhaijaan had moved a few steps back, still groaning with pain, but he seemed to be conscious enough to respond to his stooges' advice. Indeed, he tried to run away but was too slow for the lightning called Anuradha — she was back.
"Aaaaah ... leave me, you bitch."
With her fingers now crushing his machinery of pride, she punched his mouth at least a dozen times and left it bleeding uncontrollably. By the time she left him, Puneet wasn't sure if Bhaijaan had any bit of his mouth left; all he saw was a pool of blood ... as for his pride, well, it must have been hopeless there too.
Then she slowly walked up to Puneet.
"Let ... let us be out of this area," he said, not sure how to react.
The eyes that appeared dreamy earlier in the evening now seemed frozen as they stared at him without a break. It was as if they had turned into stones — she was neither blinking nor moving her eyes.
"Can we leave," Puneet asked.
Not only the eyes but even her body seemed to freeze for the next two minutes.
"Let's leave, Anuradha."
It was some relief to see her move this time. With what could be a bit of a struggle to deal with the stiffness in her body, she quietly walked round the bonnet and opened the front passenger door. As she got into the car, Puneet wondered how a body that appeared to be the fittest and the most flexible in the world suddenly turned stiff.
Against a backdrop of groaning noises, he started the car. How did the slender girl bash up five goons with such incredible ease and ferocity was a puzzle he thought he would never solve. What he witnessed was so bizarre that he doubted if he was still in the material universe. In the meantime, Anuradha had again straightened her back against the seat and closed her eyes.
Sleeping again — yes, it looks so.
The car timer showed 20.35 hours when they reached the destination, according to the GPS.
"We have arrived," he said, bringing the car to a halt.
Anuradha opened her eyes, blinked a few times, and then looked at him.
"Oh, I am so sorry, I fell asleep."
"Why should you be sorry about falling asleep?"
"Isn't it unfair — one person driving and the other sleeping sitting next to him?"
"Absolutely not. You were tired, I guess."
"Won't you come in? That's my house." Anuradha pointed at an apartment to their left.
"Not today. It's already late. I must leave."
After a few moments of what appeared like deep rumination with her head down, Anuradha turned her face toward him. Possibly, she had noticed the changed tone in his voice — Puneet now sounded sweet and considerate.
"It has been a real pleasure meeting you, Puneet. You are a true gentleman."
He laughed. "Why? Because I dropped you home?"
"Well, that's a small part of the reason I said so."
"Then what is the full reason?"
"The meeting was a bad one for you ... I acted weird."
"Forget about it. Let's not carry any mental baggage."
"See," she said with a grin, "how forgiving you are. Despite my stupid behavior, you are trying to make me feel comfortable."
"I am sure you have a reason to say 'no' to me, don't you? No problem, I respect your judgment and decision."
"The 'no' I said was not for you, Puneet; it was for myself."
"Sorry, I don't understand that."
"The truth is nothing is wrong with you; the wrong is with me."
"I see nothing wrong with you, Anuradha. You are a good girl."
"I am myself a big wrong." She fought her tears.
"The reason I said 'no' to this proposal is ghastly, but I guess you deserve to know."
"Tell me only if it helps you feel better."
"The reason is somnambulism, that is, sleepwalking ... I am a sleepwalker."
"Yes, and sometimes I do terrible things while sleepwalking."
"Such as hurting others around me. On several occasions, I beat up some people on the pavement. Incidentally, they turned out to be anti-social elements, but what if I had slammed good people?"
"The doctors tried all kinds of medicines — but my condition didn't improve."
"Do you remember what you do during sleepwalking after you wake up?"
"No, not a thing."
"And are your eyes open during sleepwalks?"
"Yes, that's what people who saw me sleepwalking tell me."
"Did you ever hurt your parents or siblings or some other loved one?"
"No, as far as I know."
"Perhaps you beat up only the bad people as a somnambulist."
"I am not sure of that. The thought of hurting my loved ones gives me jitters."
A smile played on Puneet's lips as the images of Anuradha's bashing up the goons at Fateh Bagh crossed his mind.
"Do you find it amusing?" she asked, wiping her tears.
"Do one thing — become my wife."
"You heard me."
"But I am not fit for marriage. I can hurt people around me."
"That's a risk I don't mind taking."
She couldn't finish, for in the very next moment, Puneet landed a peck on her lips. Stunned, all she could do was to give him a blank stare.
"Unfit, you call yourself unfit? Listen, you are the most adorable girl I have ever come across in my life. Marriage to you would be the greatest gift of nature to me."
"Are ... you ... sure? Maybe you should take more time to think."
"It may sound boastful, but I am an expert time manager, and I don't think it wise to waste another second thinking if you are the right girl for me. That's because you are perfect, Anuradha.
Tears emerged in her eyes again, but it was easy to guess that those were tears of hope and joy.
They kissed, and they kissed again ... and again ... and again.
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!