Entering into the Dawn & dusk cafe I found her sipping coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. Being morning there was no waiter in the cafe; even the counter boy was also busy with some other work. I soughed – “Shabana?”
Shabana moved towards my voice and gave a pale smile.
“Is everything alright?” I asked with some doubt. There was enough reason to be anxious. Our common grocery boy Kukku passed the message in hurry – “Shabana madam wants you to meet in cafe. Urgent.” He seemed serious. I almost ran as we did not meet whole the week nor did she ring. Dawn & dusk cafe was our common meeting place and usually we take coffee or tea in leisure time, fixing earlier by making calls. Moreover, she indicated me last fortnight that she had some problem, but not told me about, there was something fishy. Shabana was known to me a quite long since we were struggling for job and almost same time came to Kolkata from Jamshedpur. Eventually, knowing that we were from same parental town, we became friend. Finally she could manage a job of receptionist in Galaxy inn, a renowned hotel and I also managed to get a job in a mall as floor manager. Both of our work place was at Jodhpur Park a quite busy area in south Kolkata. We were staying at Jadavpur a nearby area, famous for bachelor tenants. We were living in opposite apartments separated by a narrow road.
Suddenly I discovered a blood stained knife covered with blue silk scarf peeping from her bag. I disgusted and almost to sought.
Pointing her index finger towards the knife she murmured – “Bhuban, I am in big trouble.”
I looked again at the knife and whispered with a fearful face – “have you …?” But I could not finish my question.
Shabana started moving her face left to right indicating ‘no’. Then she whispered – “Somebody planted this in my flat. Today early morning when I went to my flat after finishing the night shift to take rest, suddenly found it over my easy chair. I searched; found no one dead or alive in my flat nor did I find anywhere any blood spot. Somebody entered into my flat in my absence, no way could I guess. Suddenly someone knocked the front door. I have not even changed my dress. I covered the knife with my scarf and came out of the flat from terrace door.” She told nonstop and took a deep breath.
I also took a deep breath. Somewhere inside me got relief, that she has not taken any step irreversible. I looked at her with a question as if asking –‘now what?’
She turned her looks forcefully into the coffee mug and smiled again. I know that she was a very strong and cool, still I became surprised. She took a long sip and moved her tongue in both the lips carelessly. Indicating me, she stared out the window. I followed her sight. There were police coming out of her apartment.
“Oh God, hide it.” I whispered and almost jumped towards her handbag.
She replied coolly – “Don’t get panic. They are gone. But our action could make the cafe boys suspicious.” I got freeze at once then sat down in the chair besides.
“I need your help. Who so ever has planted it, must watching my flat. If police have come to my flat then he is the person who informed to the police.”Shabana whispered.
“I can’t use my cell. Manage one sim for me, not yours. Also, I need some money, your tracksuit to escape from here.”
“That’s no problem. You can stay with me meanwhile.”
She smiled and replied – “Don’t be silly. If police is searching me, you are also under magnifying glass being my closed. They may try to trap you to get me.”
“Then, where will you live? I asked her.
“Though the candle gives light but it is always shadow under it. So don’t worry about me, I will hide myself. Just do what I asked you. Please hurry up.”
I got up. She told again – “before leaving the cafe just order in the counter to pack four patties in two envelops.”
I did the same and paid the bill too and just ran to my flat. I packed my track suit, shoes, two T shirts and two elastic Bermudas, paste, brush, soap and deodorant in a airbag.. I had one old sim, left by one of my mall colleague years before, which I continued took that sim too.I also withdrew ten thousand rupees from ATM. Then, reaching to cafe and grabbed the patties. It took less than ten minutes to me.
Handing over the air bag, sim and patties to her I asked again – “At least tell me, where you are going.”
Keeping the knife in one of envelops of patties and the scarf in her hand bag she looked deep at me and said – “Bhuban, I am poor, but fare in complex, young and alone too. Also, belongs to such a minor community where females are rare to step out of home for search of job. People get me as soft target. Despite these, I am not a fool. Any way, if I tell you, where I am going, I could put you too in danger. Obviously I don’t want it.” She ran to the toilet with my airbag.
Strange! I like her daring nature. She is charming and clever, but more a nice friend. She has helped me a lot in several times. A Muslim girl, but always open minded. Kolkata is a metro city. Here no body minds about the friendship of an opposite sex even they are of utter different religion. We do use to go watching movie, restaurants for dinners.
Meanwhile, Shabana came out of the toilet wearing the tracksuit and unfold long hair in back. Shoes were bit big but she managed. I asked her – “Do shoes not appear big?”
Putting her handbag inside the airbag she answered -“I pushed your shocks in the shoes first and made a cushion, thus managed.”
She smiled and picked up airbag and envelop of patties. Hugged me and parted with saying – “I will call you.” She went out confidently. It was difficult to trace her in tracksuit. An entrepreneur from small town with lots of dream but loves her basic identity. She usually used to wear chudidar suit and matching sandals. Some time scarf in head. I usually teased her as ‘Rocking Easty’. She answered annoyed – “someday you will be proud of this east mode.”
Coming out of the cafe, I found Kukku our common grocery boy. He was hardly thirteen years old but a grown up child and I found him always cheerful. So I call him as ‘Smarty’. I knocked him – “hai Smarty!”
Looking at me he quickly came near and said – “I presume that your Bulbul is in problem.” He named Shabana as Bulbul, code word before me.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Easy, like two plus two four. Why did she pass message through me? She could ring you.” He replied.
I looked praising him.
“What are you doing man? Here you are just sipping coffee with her and people are there with very innovative ideas. Some day your Bulbul will fly leaving nest.” He added.
How could I reveal the truth before him that Bulbul has already left the nest!. I asked him looking deep – “Who?”
Maajid was the son of the owner of Galaxy inn. I surprised that Maajid has shown interest for such a ‘mamuli’ girl. I asked then – “How do you say?”
“Last fortnight he gifted her watermelon nicely rapped, through me.”
“Days are gone of gifting rose, now girls are also appreciating innovative ideas, especially when it is from boss’s son.”
“This is too much yaar. How could I come into conclusion with mare gifting a melon to her?”
“Mr. Floor manager, why don’t you exercise your top floor? Last week Maajid came several times to her flat.”
“Ok Smarty, keep watching and let me know if anything odd you find.” I told him and came back to my flat for rushing to duty.
After that three days gone. I have not got any news of Shabana nor did even Kukku passed any news except that police have come to Bulbul’s flat. Looking it is locked they went back. Kukku also told that someone is watching Bulbul’s flat, it might be police. I tried her several time in the number I provided her, but disappointed me with excused voice – ‘either switch off or unable to reach.’
Then the weekend came, as a Floor manager this is the time for me to be busy to handle the rush. Managing the rush and attending their grievances especially in the evening, I usually get fed-up and become irritated, still I had to manage. After all, despite hazards job is job and you need to perform smoothly. Suddenly my phone rang and I found Sabana with the number given by me. Leaving all, I ran to a quite place and attended the call. She just told without any formality – “just meet me in the top floor of Dawn & dusk cafe, room number ten” and cut the number. I called back and again got switch off or unable to reach. Asking Naina my floor assistant to manage for a while I ran.
Nearly after fifteen minutes knocking the room numbers ten of the top floor of Dawn & dusk café I read the name plate of Maajid. Suddenly I remembered the verse of Sabana that there is always shadow under the candle light. Who will guess she would hide herself in the flat of Maajid?
Door was open and an unknown girl was there who welcomed me with much known voice. Bob cut blond hair and jeans, T shirt completely changed Shabana. The east mode is been erased.
I entered into the room. Shabana was ready to quit with her luggage. It startled me. I asked – “When did you go your flat and bring your luggage?”
She smiled as usual and said – “Next day after changing my appearance. Nobody traced me, not even your Smarty to report you about your Bulbul.”
It was the second bomb dropped over me. I asked – “How come you know the Bulbul code?”
“It is not important. Important is that watermelon never impresses Shabana but of course a cup of candid coffee with town boy.”
I became voiceless. My words went to mum land.
I listened, Shabana again speaking – “I would have flown without informing you but my conscience did not allow. I know if I ask you to marry me, you will happily accept me. But, some dreams are not to be fulfilled. Seem destination apart.”
“Why? I don’t find the religion be a cause at least from such a wise one. Nor I have any interest in any of your past affairs, if you had.” I registered my objection.
“I know, a friend indeed is rare to find in this globe, more precious than precious stones but I can’t cheat you. Be my friend, honour me.” Shabana’s voice trembled.
I was going to say something, just then the bell rang. Shabana opened the door. Maajid entered into the room. Looking at me, he asked – “Who is he and where are you going?”
“Fine, you have come here accidentally, otherwise I had to courier you flat key. By the way, he is Bhuban, my best friend.” Shabana replied coolly.
“How could you go like this? Whole the week I have been searching you at every possible place and you are here where I couldn’t guess even after hundred thoughts. What is happening this?” Maajid raised his voice.
“Ask yourself. You say that, you are my friend. Friends never put a friend in danger planting blood stained knife in his flat. Friend also doesn’t message wrong information to police.” Shabana also expressed her anger.
“Oh, that was the knife of our hotel stained with chicken blood and police to make you fearful so that you seek help from me. I am sorry, a wrong step. Forgive me.” Maajid confessed.
“Why are you behind me? What you want is not possible.” She said.
“I would like to ‘nikah’ you.” Majid said eagerly.
Shabana looked at Maajid deeply and after a while she spoke – “Would you marry such a girl whom your father has raped saying if you cannot resist better enjoy. I ask you, how a compulsion could be enjoyed. Could you?”
Maajid became speechless. Leaving Majeed stunned, Shabana took the backpack in her shoulder and dragging the trolley bag came out of the flat. I also followed her.
“Why are you coming with me?” She asked.
I answered not. Just called a taxi and directed him for Howrah station. Kept all the baggage in the dickey and pushed Shabana into the back sit. Taxi started, sitting beside her I brought the train ticket from my shirt pocket, which she forgot to pick from her bed, gave her and said – “Delhi is not a bad place to settle for new couples.”
Shabana hold my hand and started crying.
You need to start. You need to find courage in yourself to experiment, to be judgmental. Let’s have some another flavour.