The Story Behind the Bottle
It was definitely love for Nalini and Hemant as their eyes met for the first time. For a moment they both forgot the extent and the expanse of their lives. Nalini looked away once she realised how inappropriate a thing she has done, but then a sense of liberation had consumed her already. Hemant shuddered at his audacity and resumed his own business.
Later, on the same day Nalini befriended Hemant’s sister Sharmi and some other girls in the troupe. It was not long before Nalini realised that Hemant would be the flute player tomorrow, that is her wedding day. In our society where honour and acclamation floods in as one accumulates land and gold to their names, Nalini’s father inspired awe and reverence without working too hard. But the most precious jewel in his heap, his daughter, Nalini is now going to her husband’s home. Her father has made sure that the brightest jewel finds its place in the most prestigious chamber. He prided among all his friends and acquaintances about how suitably Nalini’s alliance had been made with Pritish, a Cornell graduate laden with culture and exuberance.
Nalini sat around in a beautiful purple saree, watching Sharmi and other girl practice the dance steps for the performance that they would put up on her wedding, just the day after. Nalini, raised as a loner from her childhood bonded well with the cherubic and talkative Sharmi. Sharmi told her the fascinating stories of how they travel from one village to the other, even to the big cities, where they put up plays, musicals, and dances for various functions. Nalini listened to Sharmi intently and but she lost track everytime her eyes fell on Hemant. Hemant was instructing the men who were constructing the make-shift stage in the garden adjacent to Nalini’s house and he fiddled with the end of a burned out cigarette as he caught a glimpse of Nalini’s purple saree.
The wedding night arrived with tinsels and trumpets. Their big palace beamed extravagance, not an inch was spared of adornment. Important guests arrived from the cities and villages alike, and Nalini’s father left no leaf unturned to make sure that the guests are indulged in every luxury that one can think of. When the time arrived for him to hand over his precious daughter to his chosen Cornell graduate with a big bungalow in the heart of the city, Nalini’s father announced that he himself will now go and get his lovely daughter from the inner chambers. As he arrived, he found the inner chambers empty, his daughter’s room
abandoned. A search party was sent which returned unsuccessful, unable to trace Nalini. Nalini’s father did not take long to figure out that his daughter, the shy and demure Nalini has betrayed him at last. His dignity melted like the snow trickling down like water from the highest peak.
Few months later, the man who drove Nalini’s father’s car came to him with an information. The driver’s wife, who is now visiting her mother with their new-born had seen Nalini among a group of actors who had come to perform in the village just after the Kali puja. The day after the village headman’s daughter also spotted her in the village fair. Nalini’s hair was loosely tied in a plait, and a man with sharp, roving eyes, was adorning it with a garland.