The lady in the White

Aparna Chatterjee

Another busy day at the bank and handling the pension section is not an easy task. Every day there are cases where the grandmas and grandpas are unable to even understand what are they supposed to do. Yes, I treat them like my own Ajji and Dadu, I guess that’s the reason they come so openly with their problems. Not many children look after their parents after a certain period, and if most of them were so well educated, this problem itself wouldn’t have arrived.

“The birthdate on your Aadhar card does not match with your pan card. According to your birth certificate, it is 6/9/1955, it is 6/11/1955 on your Aadhar card. You need to change it.” “But beta, they told me to give the Aadhar card number, see the letter given from my son” face-palm in my mind (obviously now) “Ok! Why don’t you take my card and tell your son to call me, or it’ll be better if he can come and help us out?” “Only if he really could, he says.” And that’s why I feel the need to participate in the situation like I am their daughter. At least I try to.

“Sanjana! Are you done with those passbooks?” It’s past noon, and it’s only getting busier. “Excuse me, I wanted the information of this account number, if you may?” I looked up, now you don’t get many grandma’s speaking so calmly. A beautifully aged lady in a plain white saree looked right through me with those dense black eyes. I am 28 and yet couldn’t come close to her mastery of applying winged eyeliner. I took the passbook and searched the transactions. They were ancient it was as if nobody used this account for 5-6 years. I filled her passbook and gave it to her. Read the immediate transactions. “I wish to transfer the amount to my account and close this account. It’s been a few years that my husband expired, and the account remained untouched.” Ok, good children, they didn’t let her feel alone at all I guess. “I am so sorry to hear that. You will have to submit the death certificate with a simple letter to the branch manager right there (I pointed out), and that will be all.” She gave me the warmest smile with those coldest and darkest eyes I have seen in a while. For some reason, it left me unsettling. “Beta, I didn’t get my pension this month.” I have more important things to look at than those eyes, I thought to myself.

It’s almost 5 pm, the main entrance has been closed but the work through the door at the back is still going on. I start packing my stuff when suddenly I noticed a handkerchief, with its border stitched in red chains and the name RAVIRAJ embroidered on it. Yes, the name from the lady’s passbook, must be hers. I folded it carefully and kept it in my bag. Will surely return this to her on our next encounter. Being a corporate bank, we work full Saturday.

Driving back home, I get a text from Maya, my roomie. Guess we got an invitation to some club. This is the only time when we get a chance to do something recreational yet we decide to drink and sleep on our issues and yet we call it a happy life? But anyway, I am free, plus, I am not letting Maya get wasted again, so I am surely going. I decide to wear an lbd, otherwise, it will rot in my closet. I choose boots over stilettos anytime, and my favorite turquoise jewelry will give a divine touch. Roar Maya gets the car started, and I sit inside carefully looking for any see-throughs. Just as Maya accelerated I saw someone standing at the side, where our car was parked. When looked back, the watchman was standing there. But.. “So, are you open for relationships yet? Coz I think that we gonna have some handsome company today giggles.” “Amm, if he believes in aliens, hates Trump, would want to change our education system, why not?” “There sis, there! Too much intellectual skills to test, don’t you think.” Nope, I don’t, it’s the basics I believe. Why would I invest my time anyway then? That shadow-like thing I saw, it wasn’t the watchman. But what else it might be? I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“We are here! Am I looking good?” Maya asked. “You are, and isn’t that a question to ask before we, you know, leave?” And before I could hear anything she said, my ears filled with music “Jaiyen aap Kaha Jayenge.. Ye nazar laut ke fir ayengi..” Now that’s not usually a song played in a club unless it’s themed or requested. Nonetheless, I do like it. I do not know the lyrics, but I start humming in the tune. Then slowly my right ear started filling with some EDM music, and then it was as if I just traveled to some parallel universe playing the golden hit, and now I transcended. I started remembering whether I had a drink or not, but I didn’t, I am sober. Thinking all these things, the white shadow, the song, the next thing I know is that I am on the floor. Someone had pushed me badly. “I am so so sorry! Miss, are you ok? Here, let me help you.” A pleasant-looking guy was helping me out. I couldn’t move my legs for some reason. He pulled me towards him and helped me to get a seat at the corner. “Hey, what happened? We just entered, and you are wasted already?” This girl embarrasses me in front of hot guys, all the time. “Naah, he pushed me ‘by mistake.” “Of course, by mistake, I am so so sorry! Are you alright? Can I get you something?” “Grey martini, if you can please?” Ok, now I will admit that that isn’t the case usually. But he seems to be nice and all. We will find that out soon.

“There you go. Miss?” “Sanjana, Sanjana Sharma. Thank you.” I took the glass and started checking it. Sober or not, this one thing needs to be checked. I stirred my finger in it. My nail enamel did not change its color, so we are good with this guy. It’s not like I dated douchebags. But they sure turned into one, over time. I took a careful sip of the martini. “Thanks, Mister, for helping me out there. I zoned out somehow.” “Call me Jai. My name is kind of big, so let’s stick to Jai chuckles.” “Why what is it?” “Well, you see my grandpa wanted to name me. So he chose Jayeshkumar Abhiraj Raviraj Singh. But I prefer people calling me Jai, you can tell why.” “That is a long name. Thanks, Jai, then laughs.” “So, do you wanna dance?” So that’s how most of the stories from the club started. It’s not like I don’t like it and all, I love dancing, and he seems to be good. It’s just I might know how things end. I always know, at least most of the time. I know stuff I probably would have been good without knowing it, most of the time it becomes a burden.

I guess this is why people like clubbing. You drink, the music fills your mind so that there is no space for any thoughts there. You just live for that moment, for yourself. Your body reacts to the beats as involuntarily as breathing. Submission. To ease yourself from the power of taking decisions and saving yourself from its consequences. “So, should I drive you home? If Maya doesn’t show up?” “laughs No, thank you. She will show up.” At times you can use some mothering yourself. “I had a great time today. Am I gonna see you again.” He asked, with that deadly look. He sure does have a charm of his own. “Why don’t you give me your phone, and I can save my number, and we will see whether we can meet again or not?” “Haha, please.”

I am sleeping peacefully in my bed. I guess I did mind changing my dress. I see the time 3:10 am. I don’t usually wake up at night. I fetch myself a glass of water. “Maya! Maya?”, I look next to me, I am alone. Where did she go? I try to remember whether it was her that drove me home or not. Jai appeared in front of me, with a glass of water. “Oh, you’re up? Here, have this.” “I drank water. What are you doing here?! Was it you who drove me here?” He chuckled and leaned towards my ear. Just when I was about to retract, he clenched my face with both of his hands, and all I could hear was the golden hit from the club “Jaiyen aap Kaha Jayenge.. Ye nazar laut ke phir ayegi.. Ye nazar laut ke phir aayegi..” My eyes went a blur, and everything turned reddish and then dark. I woke my mouth gagged and hands tied behind. The lady in white, from the bank today came to me. “Where am I?! What are you doing?!” I try to scream through that cloth. She came and looked right through me, just like in the bank. She took her handkerchief from my bag, wrapped it around my neck, and tried to suffocate me. Kill me. I gathered all my strength and tried to scream “Maa!”.

I opened my eyes. Maya held me tight as if she shook me to my consciousness. “Sanju it’s just a dream!” She screamed. “Ok, I am fine.” She handed me a glass of water. “No, I had water.” “When you are sleeping since we got here?” Shit. I do feel like I just had water. Ok, games of the sub-consciousness. I sipped water anyway. Maya looked terrified. “What happened?” She asked. “A bad dream. Like this lady was trying to kill me.” “I told you not to watch psycho thrillers! It fucks your mind.” “I do not know whether it’s just that.” There was pin-drop silence. Maya glared at me with fear. “Is it happening again?” “I don’t know babe, I don’t know.” We slept holding each other tight.

I woke up in my bed, all safe and sound. I couldn’t sleep well, of course, how could I? Maya is still holding me tight. I know that she is not strong, but she tries to be, for me. This little girl has been with me through my highs and lows. Be it a failure, breakups, family issues, or the ghosts from my past.

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