Anushtup’s girlfriend left him because she thought that there was no end to their misery together. Because she realised that there was no hope for his idealistic ways. Little did she know that his ways would cease to exist very soon. End ! Forever ! but only for Anushtup. For, God had written her off for a lifetime of gloom and pain. She was yet to bear the despair of having herself doomed to stay alone without a partner to love and lean upon; the pain of bearing a part of him inside her, inseparable and indelible.
In the book, ‘Yatirk’ Anushtup’s love interest Poonam chooses to part ways with the best thing to have ever happened to her (read “Anushtup”). Here is a fanfic – an extrapolated snapshot of her life almost a decade and a half after the climax in the book.
She took in lungfuls of air and kept it within for a moment too long. As she finally decided to let go the air off her system, she raised her head to look up to the grey sky. Dark clouds seemed to be clashing around as if confused about their direction and purpose of their existence.
“Such a misery”, she thought teary eyed, “So much like mine”. But a mild smile donned her lips, “But its time. Finally, it is.” She thought determinedly.
She raised her head, closed her eyes, spread her hands wide as if inviting the universe to come and become one with her. She angled herself forward and prepared herself for the final fall. Suddenly, she felt a pair of hands holding her arm, “Ma ! What’s wrong Ma ? I’m hungry.”
Poonam woke up and immediately sat up, breathing heavily, struggling to stabilise her senses, as the room swirled around her.
“Ma? What happened Ma? Were you into a bad dream? I’ve been trying to wake you up for so long.” Anujay was now sitting infront of his mother on the couch. “You need to do something about these nightmares Ma. You seem to be having them for quite a few years now?” Anujay said as he leaned forward to swipe away the beads of sweat on her forehead with his handkerchief.
Even in her vulnerable state, Poonam couldn’t help noticing the stubble that her son seemed to have grown overnight. “And he is beginning to look more and more like his father” she took in a sharp breath feeling both admiration and shock at the sight of her 15 year old son.
“Ma? Ma!!!! I lost you again! Don’t drift away please, when I’m talking to you.” Anujay sighed as he stood up loosening his school tie around his neck. “By the way, what are you doing at home today? Weren’t you supposed to accompany Nanu to the Retail Summit?”
Breaking her reverie, Poonam stood up to help herself with a glass of water. “Just felt a little lazy and decided to take the day off. I thought I shall surprise you with a sumptuous lunch today. I guess I dozed off while waiting for you.”. Poonam raked her fingers through her hair and tucked the tousles behind her ears as she realised she was still shivering as an aftermath of the dream. The dream, that had haunted her for as long as her son’s age.
Life had never been easy for Poonam. Despite her father’s best attempts to protect her from the world and fill in as both the parents, he could not fight over her destiny. First a broken marriage that was arranged by her father and then a broken relationship that had been her own doing. Nothing seemed to have gone right in her life ever. Yet there was no curbing her zeal to live and have a life.
She had dreamt of a happily ever after when she realised her love for Anushtup. She thought she finally would have a happy marriage where money would fall behind love. But Anushtup didn’t feel like that. For his principles and ideals had turned him into a failure. A frustrated soul who refused to concede to the worldly ways and turned into a case of wretchedness personified.
When she came to know about her pregnancy she had hoped to talk Anushtup into accepting an offer to join her father’s business and settle down. Settle down so that they could start their life afresh. She still remembered her last meeting with Anushtup. How she had realised that it was impossible to lift him from the dungeons. The knowledge that he was incapable of letting go off had dawned upon her. She just stood up and walked out without telling him about their baby. She didn’t want him to feel obliged to marry her because of the baby in the scene. She had really wished to have a happy and contended life with him. But life they say isn’t a wish granting factory. She broke off with him.
A week later, they told her about his death. She went into a trance, not believing that he died without the knowledge of the little life that was his giving. Her father had broken the news to her and she had broken into a fit upon looking at his dead body. How could it even be possible? Anushtup, who was always so full of energy, how could he lay there just like that. It wasn’t done. She still remembered how she had thumped her fists so hard on his chest hoping that the hurt will definitely force a reaction out of him. But it hadn’t.
She was six weeks into her pregnancy, at the time of his death. When her father came to know about it, he insisted that she get rid of the foetus immediately. Poonam remembered very clearly, how he had been after her, persuading her to abort the pregnancy for so long untill it was medically possible. Thinking that he would get tired and finally withdraw, she had not even bothered to react. But then one day he confronted her. “What do you plan to do with this child? How do you expect to have a normal life with such a misgiving?” he had shouted out his lungs.
She had just walked upto to him, held both his hands in hers, “Baba! Its ok. “Normal” is not for me. Havn’t you realised yet. Please let me nurture this baby for it bears the vestige of Anushtup’s love. I assure you this would be the best gift you could ever give me.”
“Ma! Ma! You’re gone again. Seriously, I think I’ll have to report this to Nanu. You seemed to be thinking too much these days. And in the course you tend to ignore me.” Anujay was all chirpy as he faked annoyance to his mother.
In a matter of minutes, both of them settled for lunch. Poonam put her elbow on the dining table and cupped her chin with her palm. “So how was school today? You don’t tell me much about your school these days.”
Anujay mixed the dal with some rice on the plate with his fingers and scooped some up into his mouth. “Oh please Ma! There’s nothing worth telling. Anyway, you and Nanu, both of you are just not interested in Politics. So you won’t understand.”
Poonam shot her eyes up at Anujay at the mentioned of the word ‘Politics’. “Politics! What politics are you talking about?” She wondered what politics he was referring to at this tender age of 15. Wasn’t he supposed to be focusing on his board exams this year? Poonam was alarmed.
Anujay clicked his tongue, “The annual elections for the Head Boy. Shishir, my friend?” he waited for Poonam’s reaction, for the name to ring a bell. “He has been nominated for the elections.” Anujay said as he helped himself with another scoop of rice and licked the side of his palm. “There are three nominees for the final elections and have been granted a week to canvass for themselves.”
“I hope you are not wasting time in all this election stuff. You ought to focus on your board exams. Remember Nanu has promised you your favourite bike if you do well.” Poonam felt too vividly the summersaults in her heart, at the mere prospect of her son’s involvement in politics of any kind.
“Common Ma, Shishir is my best friend. So I owe him all the support and help he may require to make it to the top. I have a brilliant campaign planned for him, which will make sure that each and every student in the high school wing would know about his thoughts and ideas.” Poonam marvelled at the confidence her son exhumed while explaining the entire campaign to her. But she could not do that in peace. She interrupted, “Anu, you have created a brilliant plan. Now hand it over to this Shishir friend of yours and focus on your syllabus.”
The sharpness of her tone took Anujay by surprise, “Why are you over-reacting Ma?” he looked up from his plate to his evidently agitated mother. He finished off whatever remained on his plate and stood up to put the plate for washing. He was back almost immediately with a water bottle from the fridge. “You have to understand this Ma. The election for the Head Boy is “THE” biggest event there is for us who will pass from the school this year. So I just cannot ignore it, when my best friend is at loggerheads with the most unethical guy in class.”
Poonam frowned, “Who is this “MOST UNETHICAL GUY”? And if he is this unethical, how has he been nominated in the first place? How did the principle allow it?” Poonam squinted and titled her head to one side, making it evident that she is intently waiting for an explanation.
Having quenched his thirst, Anujay put back the crown of the bottle and banged it on the table. “This boy I am talking about has been the Class Prefect for 3 years in a row. An absolute ass licker, he has managed to put rose coloured glasses onto most of the faculty. But in reality, he is an absolute nuisance.”
Poonam rolled her eyes and gave her son an amused look, “And what makes you think so?”
Anujay was now busy unwrapping a Dairy Milk bar, “This fellow, his name is Joydeep. I always thought he was a genuinely decent guy who felt really responsible for a lot of things. I was even on friendly terms with him for some time during the last academic year. Then rumours about him reached my ears; that he talks his classmates into doing errands for him. Offering in return perks like a free cigarette, a dinner-date with good looking girls in other divisions etc. I didn’t believe any of it earlier, as nothing obvious came across.” He offered the chocolate bar to Poonam, which she denied.
“That’s because, I assume that you have kept yourself extremely busy with your studies, football and other extra-curricular activities. After all it does take some time and effort to be an all-rounder” Anujay nodded with his lips curled up in a smile, absorbing the pride he saw in his mother’s twinkling eyes.
“So what is it that has sent you fuming against Joydeep now?” Poonam was genuinely curious now.
Anujay bit his lower lip and looked to both his sides as if deciding how to put the answer across, and then sighed before opening his mouth, “So as a part of the campaigning process, the nominated candidate is free to talk to the parents/guardians of his classmates and bring in acknowledgements and references from them. The idea is to build up credentials and project the same to the junior classes, who may form their opinion based on these credentials.”
Poonam straightened in her chair. Something inside her already knew what was to follow. A chill ran down her spine.
“And?” she prompted her son to continue. She could feel the heat inside her rising up to her head.
“Because he wants Nanu to put in word of appreciation for him in a video which he can share with everyone. This boy has been just a casual friend to me; actually in hindsight I realise, I know him only because he bothered to wish me quite amicably on all my successes. Now I know that this acquaintanceship between us was only a manipulated relationship so that he could milk on my proximity to the president of the Parent teachers’ association.”
Anujay was pacing across the dining table by the time he completed. “Jerk! Such an opportunist!”
Poonam listened to her son, almost not being able to breath. She was not as much shocked by what Joydeep had requested of her son, but more by her son’s reaction to his request. She felt her throat go taut and her mouth dry, as the glimpses of past hovered in her mind.
“Ma! Are you listening?” Anujay banged on the table with his palm to gain her attention.
“Haan” Poonam reverted, her trance broken “So what did you say to him?”.
“Quite a superfluous question! Don’t I know the answer already.” She thought to herself. She felt her heart sinking.
“Ofcourse I refused.” Anujay was livid. “Why on earth should Nanu endorse anyone? Just because he is the president of the Parent teacher’s association?” Anujay threw his hands wide open. “I do not want to bring in his influence in any phase of my life. I am very clear about that.”
“But what’s wrong with something as harmless as an endorsement?” Poonam just managed to whisper out.
“What’s wrong? Its unethical! That’s it!” Anujay banged his palms on the table and stood leaning forward towards Poonam.
Poonam felt as if she had been stabbed in her face. At that moment, her awareness of being alive despite all the follies she had been subject to, reached the pinnacle. All her life she had found solace thinking that her upbringing would be the only influence on her son. But no! God had failed her once again. Anujay indeed hadn’t grown up to be her son. He had throughout been ‘their’ son. She had not been able to keep ‘Anushtup’ out of ‘Anujay’.
Poonam took in a couple of deep breaths and tried to clear her head. The revelation had shocked her nonetheless. But she decided to not stop it there. She decided to go all the way and figure out how much of ‘Anushtup’ was ‘Anujay’ born with inside him.
She cleared her throat and spoke, “Anu, on the contrary I was thinking that why weren’t you nominated for the role of the Head Boy? After all you definitely are the all-rounder in your class. Academics, Co-curriculars, Sports! You name it and you’ve done it.” Poonam raised her chin and rubbing it between her thumb and the index finger.
Anujay let out a chuckle and shook his head. “Ma! I don’t like doing the leader thing. I’d be better off doing the ‘make the leader’ thing.” He had picked up two apples from the fruit basket on the dining table and busied himself juggling them. “Viraj Sir, the faculty in-charge of administrative affairs did ask about my willingness to be nominated. I refused.”
Poonam fought the urge to give into the tears that she felt welling up her throat and her nerve ends were stabbing every inch of her insides. Yet, she had to know more.
“Its strange that you do not wish to be the Head Boy? It would give you so much power.” Poonam narrowed her eyes in anticipation, waiting very intently for her son’s reply.
“My power lies in my ability to influence the masses. Ma, you have no idea how popular I already am with the juniors. I connect so well with them already that I do not need the ‘Head Boy’ label on my forehead. I am already their ‘Dada’. And I kinda enjoy being this people’s person.”
Poonam bit her lower lip and blinked her eyes so slowly, as if she was too tired to bear with any more. But she didn’t stop, “The power that I was talking about was not only the ability to execute your responsibilities, but the one that brings the perks and benefits accrued to a Leader’s tag. You could be very close to the school management you know?” the last statement left from her mouth almost in a whisper.
Anujay let out a grin in disbelief, “Ma, you really think that I would be after such POWER?” He raised his hands to make a quotes sign with both his hands emphasising on the word POWER. “No, I am not after such power. My capability is my power. Wherever I may reach in life, I will not seek favors from anyone.” Poonam noticed his jaw stiffen and eyes grow a shade darker.
For Poonam, the world ceased to exist. Was it this that she had traded off her life for? It had only been her folly that she had expected that she would make of this child what she could never make of Anushtup.
Her chest felt so heavy as if her heart had turned into stone. Her lungs refused to circulate any oxygen into the system, and she felt drops of sweat form on her forehead. Her mind jittered at the probable fate of her son that might end up turning him into a frustrated person and a self acclaimed failure. But what could she do. She conceded to the fact that she could fight neither the effects of Anushtup’s DNA nor the destiny that her son had been born with.
Her trail of thoughts was halted by Anujay’s voice. “Ok Ma! I think I will retire to my room now. Need to create some impressive posters for Shishir’s campaign. I can’t let him down.” He picked up a water bottle to help himself through his long working stint in his room. “Nanu is going to have his dinner at the Summit after-party. That leaves just the two of us for dinner. If you feel too tired or lazy, we can order from outside.”
With a defeated sense, Poonam saw her son moving towards his room. She felt more restless because even though she felt hopeless, there was an emotion that camouflaged everything else. Despite everything that she just realised, it didn’t make her love her son any less. And that she realised was the only solace she was entitled to in this lifetime.
Poonam was so busy with the turmoil within her, that she didn’t notice when Anujay took a u-turn and was back beside her, leaning forward, his palms resting on the dining table. He raised his eyes from the table to look into hers with a deep expression.
“Ma, I want to make a confession to you.” Poonam felt a surge of panic at what was to come, because she had never heard her son sound so grave. Her eyes widened and she lifted her chin a little, signalling Anujay to continue.
“I promised Shishir that I would always be with him, even after he is selected as the Head Boy. But in reality I am going to only help him put up a strong but fair campaign for the elections. I have decided that I will desolate myself from him after the elections.” Anujay saw his mother’s expressions turn more and more confusing with every word he uttered.
“Don’t think that I am a kind of person who would abandon my friend. But Ma, all this is bound to take a toll on my studies. And that I cannot allow. Even if it weren’t for the bike, I can in no circumstances compromise with my career. I know that things haven’t been easy for you with me in your life. And I am determined to make it all worth it.” As he spoke, Anujay clearly saw through the gradients of his mother’s changing expressions. His words worked like an instant balm on Poonam’s aching heart. The relief was so uncontainable, that Poonam let out a sigh and her eyes glittered with tears that she had withheld in her throat for so long.
“I hope Shishir will not think of me as a traitor.” Anujay frowned.
Poonam frantically shook her head, and tried to speak. But only a whisper left her lips, “No dear! And if something like that happens, we will deal with it then.”
Anujay let out the whoosh of air through his mouth and smiled as if a load weighing tons had been lifted off his chest. “Thanks Ma. I love you so much.” And he turned around to finally leave for his room.
Poonam threw herself back on the headrest of her chair, looked up at the ceiling, thanking god. She felt more relieved than happy as she saw the door closing behind the son who was her whole and soul.