Parul is single, working at a senior executive level in a multinational organization. She is independent, straight forward and no-nonsense woman. She has no time to think for tiny issues of life in contrast to her job assignments. A perfectionist by nature, she works on clock terms and go mad when someone fails to keep pace with her deadlines.
However, she has a horrid past, an incidence which changed her life forever. Parul carefully kept that secret under the carpet of her memories and leading her life now with success and pride.
It was rainy evening. For Parul it was one of those rare days when universe conspires to let the things go wrong for her. She was agitated with one of her subordinate who failed to meet the deadline; because she has to give her reports in her marketing meeting, next morning. After, scolding and threatening the poor fellow of dire consequences if he fails to complete the assignment next morning, by nine; she resorts to her favorite nerve reliever activity; she logged in to her Facebook page. There was nothing new on the page. It was the same junks on status message, tag in photographs which she hardly belongs to; the friend requests which she never approve and one personal message. She scrolls through her Facebook wall for sometimes then her attention was drawn to the message box. She clicked to open her Facebook message box. It’s a message from Tathagata Banerjee.
Parul’s first impulse was to immediately close the browser window, shut down her computer, leave her apartment and quietly move somewhere in the desert where there are no virtual means for people who have deeply hurt her, to invade her now fairly stable life.
Parul rush to the adjoining balcony to her bedroom. She stays at 15th floor and the rain-soaked city at night below now appearing magical, garlanded with shining electric bulbs. Parul is in no mood to enjoy this magic. That message from of Tathagata on Facebook, with the display picture of a tiger head, have disturbing her now. The episode from her past, which she had carefully buried long time back, suddenly appeared out of the blue and started haunting her now like a ghost. She took a cigarette out of her favorite Classic pack and lit up. She took a long puff and slowly leaves the smoke as a trailer of the events on that fateful day, play in front of her. She always hated to indulge in reminiscence of that day but Tathagata’s FB message compelled her to recall. “What shall I do?” Parul though, as continue with her smoking.
Parul clicked to open the message as she wanted to make sure, it is the same Tathagata, which she hate to see again. The message read:
‘Hi! Parul. This is Tathagata. Hope you remember me. We’re together at JTC. I tried to send you friend request on this Facebook but somehow, I couldn’t. Will you please revert to me with a request from your side? We will be in touch again.’
“Oh my God, it’s him.” Parul murmured then realized nobody is listening. She looks around and rushed to balcony again. She though she needs some fresh air. Why it happened? Why he wanted to befriend now on Facebook? Does he really know what friendship is? A lot of ‘Why’ and ‘How’ started revolving in her mind. She took her second cigarette and lit it to puff.
Parul wrote the reply to Tathagata’s message:
‘Hey! Yes I can recall you. How can I forget you? I have something, I need to ask you. Can you send me your email id or let me know some good place to email you?’
Parul, by now have decided to face the past. She needs to know few answers to get peace of her mind. Probably Tathagata is also online and eagerly waiting for Parul’s reply. She got his answer in a short span:
‘Hey Parul! Why email id? Feel free to call me anytime for any of your queries. My cell number is 9811331189. Add a zero before this number. :-)’
A sarcastic smile waved between Parul’s lips. She replied:
‘I think you remembered the things, I would ask you to clarify. And my guess is there are some admissions you don’t want in writing’
‘ 🙂 My schedule is pretty erratic now. Need to travel a lot. I’ll be going out of the town tomorrow morning and returning sometime on Sunday. No time to check personal emails. Moreover, I am looking forward to hearing your voice, and just wanted to let you know that I didn’t want you to feel I was ignoring you. Hope to hear from you soon.’
Parul is expecting such a reply. How a male can put his ego off and accept he is guilty? She answered:
‘So, when should I call you? Tell me a time with your convenience.’
Tathagatha’s reply came immediately.
‘Tonight itself, any time after 10… I have no problem. No family so boozing and late night televisions. ;-)’
“So, Tathagata is trying to be informal”, Parul thought. But she won’t be. She replied to Tathagata,
Sending a message on Facebook is one thing, but actually to call on phone and speak to Tathagata without the help of impersonal technological buffer of a computer is another thing. Parul felt uncomfortable by the fact that she has reconnected with Tathagata on Facebook, who is a monster in her memory. But she has had to call him. She needs to know the answer to the questions she always wanted to know. She grew hard in her outer shell but inside the shore is still paining. She dialed his number. The rings go, Tathagata didn’t responded. She dialed again.
Parul– Parul here.
Tathagata– Hey Parul? How’re you? It’s a long time I heard your voice. I miss you so much.
Parul– Hmmm. It’s weird. How long has it been?
Tathagata– At least 12 – 13 years. I’ve followed your stuffs on Facebook. Your short poems are beautiful.
Tathagata– I copied some of them to send as SMS to my colleagues.
Tathagata– I recently copied this one… just a moment, let me read for you. (He tried to find the poem) Though it’s written by you only, so, you know this. Still, let me read it for you
So many times have I been given false hope?
And for once I want to have it be true.
To throw caution fully to the wind,
Only wanting to believe souly in you.
(A silence between them)
Tathagata– So, what are you doing now? Still writing love poems? (Smile)
Parul– Nope. I buried it years ago. No more love in life.
(A silence between them)
Tathagata– I’m sorry. Why don’t you forget that thing? It was a mistake we did and now let’s forget that.
Parul– It’s easy to say than done, Tatha. I tried my best to forget, but, it’s still haunting me.
Tathagata– Parul! Please! I’m sorry for whatever happened that day. Please pardon me.
Parul– I couldn’t. Until I get my answers from you.
Tathagata– Yes. I’m ready to answer every question of yours. But, for God’s sake, don’t feel I’m the culprit.
Parul– That I’ll decide once I got my answers. So, will you be ready to answer me?
(Silence between them)
Tathagata– Yes! What do you want to know from me? Ask me.
Parul– I have these memories, but a lot of it is hazy and there are pieces that are missing and some new pieces have come back to me since I got sober. And about that incident, in particular, with you, Moinak and Chandan; the group of you guys, who forced me to do some things.
Tathagata– What you want to know?
Parul– I just want to know if all that really happened to me. Because sometimes it feels like I’m going crazy.
Tathagata– Parul. (Pause) You’re not going insane. You’re not delusional. (Long pause) that really happened. I remember. I was there.
Parul– Thank you.
Tathagata– I don’t know how much you want to hear…
Parul– Its ok. Just tell me whatever you remember.
Tathagata– It was in ’99, I suppose that day our exams were over. Chandan and Moinak were as usual planned to booze out. They went to that half warehouse half junkyard place at the backward of our hostel — we used to call VC’s den, you remember?
Parul– I remember that.
Tathagata– Yes, that was Moinak’s discovery; that open area between those horrible shag carpets, paneling and then the junks … all dusty with cobwebs; our favorite place to booze out and make our future plans.
Parul– I still can’t believe I was really there… that was one of the things that I could never explain. Because, I don’t know “Why would I had been gone there?”
Tathagata– You went along me.
Parul– I know. I Wish, I wouldn’t have went along you.
Tathagata– I was in my room, returned from the examination hall. Somebody told me, since it’s finally the time to return to our homes, so we’re meeting to hang out and that you also wanted to join us.
Parul– I remember that. We’re supposed to see a film, do you remember that? But, you kept on insisting; we go and booze out with Moinak and Chandan. As, you’ve promised them to join the party.
Tathagata– I don’t remember that. I remember we had little argument on this and finally you agreed to come with me.
Parul- (Long breath) God. I wish, I didn’t agree then
Tathagata– For any part that I played in this, I am very much sorry.
Parul– I remember we went to that place. Moinak and Chandan were already half drunk. They offered you drink. You joined them. Then they started talking about our relationship.
Tathagata– I can totally 100% recall that now. Our discussion was going vulgar. You, being the only woman present there, was feeling uncomfortable. You told me twice that you want to leave. But Moinak insisted you stay there.
Parul– I know. When I tried to walked out. He pulled me. I fall on ground. Then Chandan hold me on the ground. I was struggling to release myself. But, they were turning into beast. It was no more fun; it was more about force, power and abuse.
Tathagata– Completely. If you told me that you were forced, coerced, used, abused, threatened, I would totally buy it.
(A long silence)
Parul– And the man, whom I loved; the man whom I believed and completely depended upon, didn’t protect me, but he joined those beasts in their game.
Tathagata– I’m really sorry for that. I was helpless and drive by the desire also.
Parul– (Crying) Yes! You should feel sorry Tatha. You know what; it was not abused to my body but my soul too. And to tell you the truth, I don’t remember what exactly being done with me, but you beasts ripped my emotion to the level which I couldn’t revive since then. (A deep breath to compose her state)
(A long silence)
Tathagata– I actually could have save you, Parul. But the idea that it was non-consensual never crossed my mind.
Parul– I remember saying ‘No’…
Tathagata– At least initially, you said, ‘No, let’s stop’; maybe a couple of times. But then everything was ok. I remember afterward, you were really emotionally unresponsive, not talking. You left in a hurry.
(A long silence)
Tathagata– I do want you to know that I am so sorry for any pain I caused you. I did like you. There was no disrespect or … I never saw you as a piece of meat or some bitch. You were a little girl whom I wanted to marry and I can see that more clearly now.
Parul– Well, (Sounding tough) I was… and my background contributed in that…. I believed you that day and put myself in bad situations. And I didn’t know how to … I said ‘No’, but I didn’t scream or bite or kick because that’s not what I knew how to do. I just asked you nicely to stop.
Tathagata– Yeah, if you had done any of that stuff, we would have stopped right away. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t do it.
Parul– I do appreciate you talking to me about this. You know, you people made me what I am right now. I didn’t tell about that incidence to anyone, not even my mother. I wanted to tell her everything, but I didn’t wished to see her heart getting filled with grief after knowing her daughter got pregnant out of that… (Pause) rape. I didn’t know who among you was the father… I went alone to get myself aborted. It was a pain. I cried whole night the day.
(A long pause)
Parul– It had taken me a decade of alternately blaming and doubting me to actually start sifting through my memories in therapy, even longer to admit that what had happened to me was an assault. This was partly due to the hazy, spotty nature of my recollections — the brain has a beautiful way of blacking out things that are too horrible to remember. (Pause) Then I saw your friend request on Facebook. I decided I had to know once and for all what had really happened to me. (Pause) seized by the desire to know the truth, I immediately decided to ask you what had happened to me and clarify some things.
(Silence between them)
Tathagata– Parul… if you ever need anything… if you just need someone to back up or you have more questions, I’m totally available. I work till evening, but I’m around any time. I want to help in any way I can. And… (Pause) if possible, please forgive me.
Parul– Thank you. Just take care of you. And, if you ever become the father a son, teach him so that he value himself and understand that “No” means “No”.
Tathagata– I will.
Parul clicked on the ‘Ignore’ button for the Tathagata’s friend request. She walked to the balcony. The night is almost over. She has an important meeting tomorrow in the office. She has to talk on the solution to cut non-productive assets for her organization. She has very bright opportunity to get the promotion soon, which will make her the only woman to lead the group of 700 odd men. She has no time to date with the Past.