“Shattered legs may heal in time, but some betrayals fester and poison the soul.”
― George R.R.
I always loved Kalimpong and told my friends how lucky we were to have been born here. I have seen a lot of things in such a short time: love-mortal and immortal, friendship-true and false, betrayal, and grief. All of these words belong to one subcategory termed “feelings” and the first two and the last two are cousins. I first understood love with the tender touch of Namrata. A 20-something botanist, and a nature lover, she aspired to be a florist. She would often come and enjoy at the cottage with her friend and soon-to-be husband Shoronjit. The cottage was supposed to be part of one of many cottages for a five star hotel which got shelved due to monetary issues. The cottage overlooked the ice capped mountain tops and trees lining the mountains. Needless to say, this abandoned cottage became the numero uno choice for the duo for hook-ups. Both Shoronjit and Namrata belonged to the same college and stayed in the college hostels. Shoronjit was a man of the internet age and so chose computers while she was purely devoted to nature and hence had chosen botany. Both excelled in their respective domains and both got selected for scholarships. Being toppers they had a natural affinity towards each other and both became friends.
Shoronjit knew the hostel wardens of both, boys and the girl’s hostels. So he would bribe the wardens and both would often sneak out to spend the night at the cottage. Of course the parents were in Kolkata and didn’t know anything about this. Kalimpong after all was known for the great boarding schools. The cottage was located in an isolated place near a bend. Hence there were no other cottages in the vicinity. The night was young and they would gossip and giggle all night. He would often speak of helping her with being a full-time florist. These lovebirds would disturb my sleep by laughing loudly and listening to music. During evenings she would take a chair out near the porch, and would sit for hours admiring me. Shoronjit was more of an indoor-guy and would be busy fiddling with his hand-held video game player. He was a handsome young man with charming looks. All the girls would drool over him and were jealous of Namrata. The couple would spend hours in this cottage on weekends. One day out of the blue, Shoronjit decided it was time and proposed to her and said how much he loved her. He said that if she marries him he would leave no stones unturned to keep her happy. She was thrilled but asked to wait till college gets over. Soon love grew stronger and by the time their college got over they got married. Owing to opposition from parents they had to run away to get married. However, once married they knew the one place they could safely dwell undetected.
All seemed well and they would enjoy sitting outside the cottage near the porch. Although due to monetary problems and legal dispute the hotel was closed, he knew it wouldn’t be long before the hotel promoters and personnel came to know about this secret family living in one of their cottages. So, he decided to end the agony. He started saving money and soon Shoronjit bought the cottage from the hotel promoters and decided to move-in permanently. Initially they were happy but as time flew by love like all other mortals started to decay. Namrata wanted to be a florist but Shoronjit wanted her to sit at home and attain the role of a housewife. She argued that she wanted more from life. Shoronjit too started to spend less time with her and added fuel to her anger. She now knew that he had betrayed her trust. This anger coupled with Shoronjit’s indifference depressed her and she started going into a depression. There were fights between them and all I could do was watch in dismay. Often she would look at me and mumble. I could never hear her.
Between them I felt that Namrata’s hate for Shoronjit had begun. Empty promises of caring made by Shoronjit were cultivating this hate and rage and causing the depression to worsen. Soon there was a communication gap and they started talking lesser and lesser. The fear of losing her individuality had started eating her mind and every time she would visit me and my friends, I could observe a strange darkness in her eyes. Her personal space had gotten invaded. She could either keep at it or do something about it. Her anger and sheer disappointment with what her life had turned into, made her think hard of alternatives. She would spend her time at home nurturing her small garden of flowers. Sadly that garden was her only connection to her subject and her dream of being a florist. She bought seeds and saplings and increased the garden manifold.
One fine evening when he was away she decided to see the photo albums to pass boredom. Leisure coupled with hatred can hatch evil plans and so it did. While flipping through the photos carefully enveloped in thin plastic sheets she came across a picture. Her pupils enlarged as she saw and recognised me. There I was standing alone away from all of my other friends. She got up and took out her books and started reading, after all I was a part of history and she was beginning to discover my importance. In between the reading, she would often look up and laugh loudly like an evil witch. She researched hard and got all the information she needed. She thought how dumb she was of not thinking about this early enough and cursed herself. She had devised a plan. She couldn’t sleep the whole night thinking about it. Finally years of captivity were going to be over! “Freedom- here I come”, she thought.
Shoronjit liked home cooked food and Namrata was a good cook. Namrata would often prepare “Chochodi” a Bengali mixed vegetable preparation for him. The following afternoon while having lunch she said to Shoronjit, “I feel romantic, don’t you?” Shoronjit was surprised at this sudden outburst from her and looked at her. It had been years since she had said something like this. She asked again, “Well??? Don’t you?” Shoronjit was not in a mood but couldn’t say it as the last thing he wanted was to have a fight. He remained mute and waited for her to continue. She began staring at him intensely, as if she was going to burn him with her eyes. Her showing an angry face was a bad sign and Shoronjit knew that it was only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose. He said, “Yeah, I feel romantic too dear. What do you think we should do?” She smiled and asked him to guess, which he wasn’t good at. So he started to give a confused look and uttered, “Uhh...I am open to suggestion, your highness!” And so the highness suggested, “Let’s have candle-light dinner tonight, what say?” “Yeah, great idea...let’s do it. It’s been years since...” Shoronjit was still speaking when he was interrupted “Hmmm...alright, alright....now go to the market and buy these”. She handed him a list. He asked her why she was waiting since morning to give her the list to which she paid no attention. The list was pretty long having everything written on it. The list read “vegetables, spices, kalo jeere (Kala Jeera), basmati rice...fruits, and so on”. He glanced at the list and looked up and asked “Honey, I can understand the need for vegetables and spices but why the dropper and filter cup?” She looked at him and raised her eyebrows. She wasn’t prepared for this question. She was thinking “Should I tell him the truth of the filter paper and the dropper for crushing the leaves, filtering and adding the filtrate with dropper with accuracy?” After all accuracy in the dosage is the key. She was still thinking what to answer when he said again, “Never mind dear, I will get it, but it’s a huge list and will take some time, I will be back in an hour or so”. He slammed the door shut, wiped the seat of his bike and then drove away. She felt relieved. She had finally got time to think and act on her plan.
She came out of the cottage with a showel and started digging. I couldn’t believe what I saw, she was digging a grave. Next, she came to me and said “Time for you to show me your love!” She took what she wanted and went into the kitchen. Next, I heard the sound of the mixer-grinder followed by the same witch-like laughter.
Soon he came back and then they chatted. She spoke nicely with him and both gossiped like the college days. Soon it was dinner time. She had made arrangements outside the house. She had carefully placed the table and chairs right next to me in the lawn. But there was no light and due to her short height she couldn’t reach the stock bulb kept in the top shelf of the wooden almirah. Soon, the arrangement was done for fitting the bulb outside which she could lit up after he helped her. She served him the plate having 8 cups and a rosogolla that was moving around in circles in the plate. He saw them and said, “Wow, 8 dishes, and you made ‘Chochodi’ too, my favourite”. She smiled back and said, “Yeah, tonight is special for both of us!” They had the longest dinner that I ever saw a couple have. After the dinner they went in and slept.
At night there was a thud and someone screamed “I can’t see and my body is going numb” and then after much struggle with the door knob the outside door opened. Shoronjit came out screaming “My heart is gonna burst, help me”. Nobody came out. He didn’t know what it was, but I knew. His pulse started to slow down. The blood-pressure synchronously fell, and the heart started to arrest in diastole. He was now fully blinded and looked towards the door and kept waiting for her to come out and help. He slowly understood what had happened and yelled “How could you?” and slumped to the ground. There was no sinus rhythm. His heart had stopped.
After a while she came out and stood near the porch. She looked at Shoronjit’s lifeless corpse. She felt relieved. She picked his body and threw it into the pit and covered it. She murmured to herself “Thank you, aconite”. She then brought in a few of my friends and sowed them on top of the grave. For the next few days, she took time to nurture my friends till they grew and came up to a certain height. She soon started her nursery of flowers with many shades of purple colour and I was joined with many other friends. Her secret remained hidden for years and buried beyond anyone’s suspicion and beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
But, like all crimes have to have an end and justice must prevail, this had to end too. In 2013, there was a massive landslide. Surprisingly I survived, but the cottage that stood beside me, the abode of the two love-birds got buried. Namrata managed to get hold of her cell phone and dialled for help. Little did she know that her call for help would put cuffs in her wrist. The rescuers dug through to her and got her out. But they also got the body of Shoronjit. The forensic experts arrived on the scene and collected the requisite samples from the corpse. An autopsy revealed the obvious. Soon after she recovered in the hospital, she was brought in by the police for questioning. I knew it was only a matter of time before the world knew about her and me. After a few torturous rounds of rigorous questioning she finally revealed her dangerous plot of how she killed him with my help. Can a plant be used as a murder weapon?
For years, I had been used for medical purposes, for giving life but I could also be used for taking lives. Who am I? My name is Nilobikh, and I await you to draw attention to my purplish flowers, sheer beauties aren’t they?