“Radha, Hello. Where are you?” Asha Goswami waved her hand in front of her friend’s face.
Radha Ganguly realized with a start that she had been staring at the lamp beside her bed, switching it successively off and on. Her pillow was half lying on her lap and half on her left arm. She was sitting on her bed with her hair loosely fallen about her.
“We have a problem here,” Asha said, plopping beside her long-haired friend. They shared a single room in a ladies’ hostel. Their parents lived in Howrah.
“What problem?” Radha asked innocently.
“You are not the thoughtful type, though a little introvert, perhaps. What’s the matter now?”
“Well! Nothing, I suppose,” Radha replied, a bit uneasily and got up.
“I will not let you go until you tell me what you were thinking,” Asha pulled her friend down with her on to the bed.
“Nothing,” and she lowered her eyes.
“There has to be something, dear. You have been this way for some time, now. Tell me, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, at all.”
“Ok. Let me see…In the morning, you are in a hurry to reach the office, now-a-days. Previously, you were the late latif of the organization. After you return from work, you are thoughtful and keep smiling to yourself. Hey! I got it. Who is he?”
“Who is who?” Radha asked, not being convincingly deceptive.
“It’s love, alright, Honey. Don’t hide it from me. Come on, tell me. Out with it,” and Asha started tickling her friend.
“Hey, Asha! Stop it,” Radha implored, trying to push off Asha’s hands away from her. “I’ll tell you, wait.”
“Let’s hear it. If it would be something less than the truth…”
“I know, I know.”
“Then tell me, yaar.”
“Mr. Shyam Arora.”
“Your boss! No kidding!”
The next morning, Radha left for work feeling slightly odd in Asha’s well-cut suit since she was used to only salwar-kameezes. In the ad agency, Radha handled everything from copy-writing to reception.
Since her hair was loose and little tresses fell on her cheeks, it irritated her. She couldn’t do any work. Her hair fell all over the place. ‘I told Asha not to do this to me. Now, I am in for a firing from the boss.’
“You look different today, Miss Ganguly. Is it your birthday?” Shyam Arora asked, thoughtfully as he entered the office.
“Nnooo. My friend gave…”
“Oh then, you must be going to a party.”
“Then a date perhaps. Anyways, that’s not my concern. I have some urgent work to do. So if anybody comes to see me, I am not in.”
“B-but, if it is Ms. Verma?”
“I said, I am not in. Is that clear?”
At 12 O’clock, Ms. Kiran Verma, the famous billionaire Jamnadas Verma’s pampered daughter arrived. She was a beautiful sensuous teenager.
Radha’s “But, Mr. Arora is not in Ma’am,” did not stop her. She determinedly stalked through the small office towards Mr. Arora’s room, without even a glance at Radha.
A few minutes later, Shyam came out of his cabin, an arm possessively entwined around the girl’s waist, saying, “But, my dear, it’s only a matter of days.”
“I do understand darling,” was the starry-eyed reply. She turned to Radha, “One more thing. When we get married, I want this girl out. I don’t like people who try to copy me, despite being ugly,” the last word she spat out with hatred.
“Whatever, you say darling,” he turned her towards the door and almost forcibly made her go out!
The telephone rang. Radha picked up the receiver, “Creative Ad Agency…Just a minute please. It’s for you, Sir.”
“Who is it?”
“A Miss Caroline.”
“Give it to me,” taking the receiver from her hand, he spoke into it, “Hello, beautiful…One minute, darling. I’ll call you from my iphone.” He returned the receiver to Radha, angrily. “Despite my telling you not to let anyone inside, why did you let her in?
“B-but, Sir. She…”
“I don’t want any excuses. Nobody comes into my cabin. Is that clear?”
“It’s disgusting, Radha. The man practically changes women like he changes his clothes. He has perhaps promised to marry each of them. And you say you love him,” Asha remarked that night.
“Yes, I do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Has he ever left Mumbai on a long tour?”
“Every other week. And most of the time he has his latest girl-friend in tow.”
“How do you feel in his absence?”
“The whole office seems to converge on me. As it is he goes out every other day for a business lunch and leaves me alone in the office. I feel miserable at these times. As advertising manager, Ronit has to go out too.”
“Are you sure it is not loneliness that you feel?”
“Yes, absolutely. Then why would I have declined Ronit’s proposal?”
“Ronit proposed to you? No kidding!”
“Then this is the case of the triangle. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean, you practically do all the boss’s work and all he gives you is firing.”
“It’s not that. I am not doing all his work. There are certain things only he can handle.”
“Like Ms. Verma and Ms. Caroline.”
“No, Asha. He brings in a lot of business. Otherwise we would have closed up a long time back.”
“No kidding!” Asha rolled her eyes.
Radha left the office very late the next evening. Mr. Arora had left early, so she locked the office and took the keys with her. She walked towards the hostel in darkness. Suddenly, she heard somebody run towards her. In the darkness, she could not know it was she or he. The man passed a streetlight and she was shocked to stillness. Another streetlight fell on her face and Shyam Arora recognized her instantly.
The moment he reached her, he called, “Radha.” For the first time he had called her by her first name. “Radha, please save me.”
“What happened?” she asked stalling.
“Caroline is dead, murdered.”