When she turned back to face the man, the floor beneath her seemed to slip away from the astonishment, she couldnt believe, what she was looking at. She was looking at a half naked Sultan lying on the bed,waiting for his escort, staring at her with equal astonishment. She foucused and looked with even more concentration at the man. He was definatly Sultan. For a second she thought she could close her eyes and fly way into her Parallel Paradise Of Platform No.3.
In the last days of November 2036, a man was counting the last days of his life. Crores of rupees in his bank account couldn’t buy him an extra day of life. When a person is on the face of death, life seems simple and beautiful to him, he makes everyday left count. Sultan had done many great things in his life, grave great things. Though the whole of Kolkatta feared him and respected him out of terror, no one came to his bedside on his last days. This is when he realized that love and respect couldn’t be bought,forced or begged, it had to be earned. At the age of 57 Sultan was in the hospital, on ventilators. Doctors told him, they were trying their best to keep him alright and that everything was under control, but Sultan knew that death was close. He just wished he could live for a few more days till his son arrived to Kolkatta, after finishing the smuggling dealings in Gujarat. Sultan was one of the most powerful dealers in the sub continent. A few days later Sultan’s son arrived. He was a well built man who was 29 now. The next day when Sultan was moments away from his death, he called his son onto his bedside, and whispered him a few things.
It was very sunny, when Sultan was being buried. It felt like the sun was glowing extra that day, to show the whole world, that a man died. A man filled with perfections and imperfections. He had died a painful death. Taj was looking onto his father’s coffin, while the men were burying it. From the moment his father had passed away, the words Sultan told him were replaying in Taj’s mind. “What I am going to tell you now, will be painful son, but I hope you will forgive me. I got greedy for you, I did an unthinkable sin” Sultan said to his son on his death bed. Sultan was already half dead, his lungs gave out. With the last grain of strength left in him, he said to his son “your mother is still alive. I had lied to you when I told you, that you had no mother, I took you away from her. Go to our old house on the port. In my room, there will be a book, hidden in the top shelf on the right side. I have written all the truths you need to know. I couldn’t give it to you when I was alive, you would hate me. I love you my child, please don’t think bad of me after you read the book. I told your mother, for you to be happy, she had to stay away from you. I don’t know where she is right now, but taj, find her, find your mother my child. Her name is…….” Those were the last words Sultan spoke.
After the funeral, Taj got into his BMW, gave his driver a 500 note and ordered him to go home, for Taj wanted to go somewhere alone. It took him 40 minutes to reach the old port house. Taj and his father had moved out of this house years ago. While walking towards the door, Taj thought, weather this was really happening. He found it hard to believe. Two days ago, Taj was preparing himself to take over his father’s empire and now he was at their old house to unravel some secrets of his life, which his father had hidden from him. He dint know what he was about to find out. Everything seemed so artificial, like it had been thrown down upon him from a pot boiler movie. A father dying and telling secrets to his child. It seemed unreal, but it was real. This was happening. No matter how hard Taj tried not to believe that this was happening. It was. When he reached the main door, he gave one big sigh, closed his eyes for a second and unlocked the door. As he entered all memories of his father came bouncing back to him. Those were the good times he thought. Over his years of growing up, Taj frequently told his father, that there were glimpses in him about a woman. A woman he dint really remember anything about, but had small glimpses. Sultan knew who it was, but always rubbished it off. When Taj entered his father’s bedroom, his eyes were searching for a book on the top shelf. When he took it, he was a little disappointed. He had expected some, old, royal looking book with leather bindings and a lock maybe. Instead it was a small ruled hundred pages notebook which primary school kids used, with the picture of donald duck on its cover. When he opened the book, on the first page was written, Syed Taj, class : 1 B , Roll no: 32, Little woods school. He dint understand any of it. The memories of class 1 were very scarce in his mind. He decided not to think much about it and go on further. The starting pages consisted of basic math done by a kid. The additions and subtractions. After a few pages he could see, pages written by a grown up, he knew this was what his father was talking about. He knew that this contained the information of his father’s past. He started reading.
25th of August 2005 was a very important day in Sultan’s life. He could barely sleep the previous night. He woke up early in the morning, and entered the bathroom to take bath. Heavily preoccupied with the thoughts about how his day was going to go he pour a mug of cold water on himself. As the cold water hit his body and gave him shrills, he realized he forgot to switch on the water geyser, he decided to continue. He came out and got dressed in his kurta pajama and put on his praying Taqiyah cap, spread a carpet on the floor and started praying to the lord, facing the Qibla, which is the fixed direction of Kabba in Mecca. He prayed to the Lord to favour him with the Job to which’s interview he was going that afternoon. It was a post for an assistant manager in AVJ steel plant which was situated in the outskirts of Hyderabad. His chances of getting the job were scarce and even he knew that. But one hopes for the hope of living. The hope of living a life of satisfaction. A life with less questions and more answers. But many fail to understand, that one can only have a satisfied life when he is grateful for the life he already has. Sultan was not one of them. Sultan was tired of living the middle class lifestyle graced upon him by his father Syed Safi. Safi was a 51 year old who was a 8th grade math teacher in a local school.Safi got the job at the school just a week before Sultan was born and from the past 26 years, he was at the school every morning teaching kids mathematics, and every single night he was on the dining table beside his wife. Every morning, Safi went to school on his bajaj chetak scooter and took out his green maruti 800 car on special occasions. He was the simplest of the simple men. His wife, his child, his math and his ethics were all the things that comprised his life. His wife was devoted to him, she was a wife who never gave a chance to her husband to point a finger at her, she was a mother who never, in her strength, mis lead her child or set a wrong example in his up bringing. She was a woman to whom her family’s dignity mattered the most.Safi and his wife hardly spoke after 28 years of marriage but their bond was a very rare one to find. The duties which they both performed perfectly, were indirectly the love they showed towards each other. Their son was contrary to this. Sultan had a unusual mischief filled in him. He was overly swelled with smartness which made him think he was a cut above others.His middle class life couldn’t bring him the pleasures he desired. So, he had a way to acquire them. This over smartness made him land in a lot of troubles. Sometimes, it was a gang of hired goons who would come to beat him up for the tricks he played on people. He borrowed huge amounts of money by tricking people and disappeared. He was crookedly intelligent, he never really gave his address to people, to avoid them from coming to his home for asking back the money. Because, even he himself dint know, who his next victim would be. He would search for a right opportunity, find a suitable prey, enter his life, become friends with him, build a strong trust, use the person and disappear. And he felt no regret for the person.Sultan was one of those rare exceptionally intelligent men. But there was a bug in his mind which trifled with him, and made him take all the wrong decisions in life. This made the languid chap use his intelligence to con people to get the little benefits and satisfactions which would have no trace in memory once enjoyed. Though being a genius Sultan never saw the bigger picture. But this corrupt chap had a soft side and a weakness. Sultan could never see anyone cry, especially women. He could never hurt anyone in a depressing way, which would effect the person’s feelings. Surely he tricked people for money, but he tricked fools who had plenty and never saw their faces again. Sultan never went into someone’s life and hurt them by doing something grave. He just made them hate him. But he never, even in his corrupt est dreams, imagined that he would be ruining a few lives on his way to success.
That afternoon, he was at the reception of AVG steel plant, half n hour before the appointment. Looking at the plush interiors of the reception, the green lawns of the steel plants, he felt nice. He looked at the officers coming into the steel plants in the civics and corollas, he told to himself “Just fetch me this job lord, my life will be Jannat”. He dint get the job.The way back home was long. And it seemed longer than it was. Sultan had no clue what he was going to do now. He had thought his wit and likability would fetch him the job even though he had just a bachelors degree which should pretty average marks and no experience. The selectors differed. He dint get what he wanted. His mind was upset now, an upset mind breeds on frustration and rejection. Now his hunger to be successful was more than ever. He was now more vicious than ever. He was willing to do anything to be successful now, he dint wanna go back to the boilerplate life which he had.When he reached home, the went straight to his room and lied down on his bed. He locked himself in the room for the rest of the night. Lying down on his bed, staring at the cracks in the ceiling above, he started to think. The next few weeks went by slow, Sultan was on a diet of dissapointment , frustration and hope. Hope which he always had.
He saw HER for the first time in a hotel at secuderabad railway station. She was sitting at the billing counter and taking orders from people and giving them their reciepts. He was awe struck by her beauty, he wondered why such an angel was sitting at the billing counter of a small hotel. When he went to the counter to order, he couldn’t speak. He was staring at her like a dog staring at a hanging piece of flesh at a broiler. She looked at him and asked “Hello mister, What do you want?” he hardly replied. He took his plate of idli from the dining counter and sat at a table which was the closest to her. During his meal he kept staring at her, and when her eyes met his for a few times he used to shy away and dig into his plate. He came to the hotel the whole next week. Looking at her beauty was becoming an addiction to him. One night on his 15th dinner at the hotel he decided to wait at the opposite street till She closed the hotel and follow her. he wanted to know where she lived.While closing the shutter she noticed him standing at the opposite end . She ignored him but got little suspicious. He was following her from a safe distance, when they had walked about 500 meters, she turned back and yelled at him “What is it that you want? Should I yell for help? people here know me, they will break your bones!” Even before she was done speaking this, Sultan turned back and ran away. This made her more curious. she expected him to come to the hotel the next day. He dint. He dint come back to the hotel for 3 more days, but when it was no more bearable, he got back to the hotel to look at her. This time he was afraid to look at her, he was looking down on the floor when he approached the billing counter. And without looking at her he ordered. This made her smile, she found him cute. Handing him over the coupon she said to him ” Will you always order idli and leave or will you ever ask me my name?” he looked at her with surprise, she was throwing a naughty smile at him. Sultan blushed like a newly married girl.Over the months they grew close, their friendship turned into love. Sultan was the guy she wanted all her life. And when Sultan was with her he too used to transform into a sweet being, the bug in his head went dormant. He loved her. But when he came back home, the same old disappointment would hit him. The disappointment of having a mediocre life. He wanted more. He lied to her about his job. He told her that he was an employee at the AVJ steel plant. He met her only in the evenings, pretending he was coming from office. When Sultan took her to his home and introduced her to his parents, they showed her a cold shoulder. She dint like it, on the way back home she asked Sultan that why did he think they dint like her. He said to her he had no clue. He did. He had every clue. He also told her that he would leave his parents his job and settle with her in some other city. He kissed her in her room and said “We’ll make our own paradise, jaan” The bug in his head dint spare his love too he made a master plan, hat he would make her sell the hotel and leave this city with her and they both would start a small business of their own in some other city. In the start of their relationship he lied to her about his job, because he wanted to make an impression, but he now dint have the guts to tell her the truth, the truth that he was unemployed.
When he came back home after dropping her, Sultan’s father told him “Why are you destroying an innocent girl’s life? You cant even take care of yourself, you have no career and you want to marry her and start a family? You should be ashamed of yourself. She seemed like a nice girl, let her go. She doesn’t have a future with you.I will never approve it” This was the answer to her question when she asked Sultan about why his parents showed a cold shoulder towards her. He knew it, but dint dare tell her. He moved out of his parents house and started living with her, using her money. He told her, he quit his Job. They were to get married soon and leave Hyderabad.
At the times he was with her, he was never afflicted, but when he was alone and started thinking about his life,and that made him catastrophic .He loved her and wanted good things for her.But he was very self obsessive,the undying hope of his weeping heart always made him think about the success he had wanted.He was 26 now, and had achieved nothing in life.He wanted a escape route out of the dull struggle full life he had.His dad had got him a clerk job in the school he worked.He declined it.That was the last time he saw of his parents.He was not happy with normal jobs with normal pay.He was greedy.Life went on, and he became frustrated by the day.
One day while in the mosque, Sultan came across an old friend. Hassan was Sultan’s best friend in teenage,only Hassan was more cold and cruel. They used to steal watches and sun glasses together. They used to go onto the abandoned ware house and drink together. Sultan was seeing Hassan seven years. After the formal greetings were performed, they both sat at a tea stall near the mosque and started talking. Hassan told Sultan that he was working for a very powerful man in Bhilai now. He dint give the detail but Sultan got the hint that it wasn’t a job someone would be proud to tell the details about. Hassan had come to the mosque in a white honda accord. This meant that what ever his job was it brought him good pay. The bug in Sultan’s mind came alive. After almost an hour of gossiping Sultan asked Hassan, weather he would be interested in going for a drink. Booze made people puppets in Sultan’s, he could manipulate and win the trust of people in one sitting. Oh yeah, he was the master of the game. That night, Sultan was playing the best game of his life. After Hassan was 7 pegs down, he was Sultan’s slave. Hassan ran a business of smuggling goods at the port area of Kolkatta. yes, he lied to Sultan at the first about working in Bhilai, but justified himself that in this business he couldn’t reveal his secrets to people. Hassan was dumb enough to realize that he was being manipulated by a brilliant con artist, the thought never occurred to Hassan that, sober or not he never has to reveal his secrets. That is the trick booze plays on minds, it erases the factors of logic.
When Sultan digged in deep, he came to know that, Hassan was the right hand man of Arka babu, who was a millionaire and ruled the smuggling business of Kolkatta port. His dealings were anything from branded clothes to branded coke. Now the bug in Sultan’s mind was working over time intensively. Sultan told Hassan that he needed help to settle in life and his life was going no where. Sultan used the most touching lines, he was very particular about presenting his proposition. Sultan knew that self humiliation was a huge sympathy gainer. Hassan assured him that he will do anything in his reach to help him. A week later , Sultan got a phone from hassan. Hassan had a job him, he had spoken to Arka babu, he had convinced Arka babu to give Sultan a chance in the business. Hassan told Sultan that he would provide him the basic job in the business, and from there Sultan had to work and gain trust to come up to bigger positions in the business. Hassan told him that this was the code of the business, there was no partiality, every one had to build their own way. Hassan dint know the gravity of events which where about to hit him and the business by the entry of Sultan into it. He told Sultan to be in Kolkatta by next week.
That day Sultan came home drunk to his soon to be wife.He had gone to a bar after listening to what Hassan had told him, with joy and sorrow. He in depth assessed his situation of life.He loved her but Sultan knew she wouldn’t allow him to do such dirty business. And he even knew that she wasn’t dumb enough to understand that he was up to some fishy business, when the money would start coming in.She was a girl who grew up in struggle, she knew money doesn’t come so easily except if its illegally. She was a student of Bharati amma.He made his plan. He went to his parent’s house, and told them, that he had realized what they meant, and wanted to leave her in peace. He told them that he had got a job in bhilai and he was going there.But they were shocked when he gave his final statement.He told them that she would come here asking for them, for her to be happy, they had to tell her that he had died, give no explanations just tell her that he had died in a car accident and never to show her face again.He convinced them that this was important because she was very obsessed with him, and she was torturing him for the unperfect life he had. Sultan’s bug played the right moves. It convinced them that instead of having a bitter life him, it was better he left her. He convinced them that with time, her pain would heal. He told them that it would be better for her on the long run. They agreed on one condition, that he would never show his face to her and them again in life. It was exactly what he wanted. Sultan Fooled his own parents that day. That night Sultan made love to her. She had surrendered completely to him. They were to get married in a week, but their bodies couldn’t wait.When they were finished, she held him close and slept.He couldn’t sleep that night. In his minds were , circling all the thoughts about the sin he was about to do. The next afternoon, he told her he was going to the bank. She came to Sultan kissed him and said “come back soon baby, I’m making gajar ka halwa for you.” In an hour, he was on his way to Kolkatta.
Sultan was waiting for his escort in suite 589 of the Fishland hotel. He had come to hyderabad on a bussiness dealing for Akra babu. He was his right hand man now. He earned more than he ever imagined, but still wanted more. After leaving to Kolkatta, Sultan never loved any other woman. But his body needed things which his heart din’t. He checked his watch the escort was late. He undressed himself , and go onto the bed wearing his boxers and switched on the T.V. His escort came into the room. He couldn’t see her face properly , she was looking down. And when she locked the door and turned towards him he saw that he was waiting for the girl he had loved and left years ago. Both of them were staring at each other at equal astonishment. It was she who spoke first, “Sultan?” . Then he called out her name to check weather it was really her. She again spoke “Sultan is that really you?” Words weren’t coming out of their mouths. They were spell bound and shocked to their very cores. Sultan had left her in a cold way, when ever he used to think of her, he guessed that she would’ve married someone else and must have had kids. He guessed, she would never forgive him, this made him stop from searching for her. But here she was, looking at him half naked in a hotel room. The tension clearly showed, he couldn’t move a muscle on his face. All these years where was she? What had she done? And why was she hear? Were the questions coming into his mind. He got up after two minutes of staring and loosely wore his shirt. She on the other had, started walking towards him very slowly, still staring at him with equal astonishment. the man whom she loved with all her heart, the man who died years ago was standing infront of her alive, waiting for his escort. The man, whose child she was raising, the child who was sleeping right now, thinking he dint have a father, was alive. All these years where was he? What had he done? And how was he hear ? Were the questions coming up in her mind. When she came close enough to Sultan, the astonishment on his face had faded, guilt had taken over it. She with a look which showed sorrow, and shock, looked at him from top to bottom. She touched his face with her finger tips, when she was sure that this was Sultan who was standing infront of her, there was a huge flood in her eyes, she started slapping him, over and over and over again. Crying while she was doing so, she howled at him “why are you here? Why did you do this to me? Why” there was a part of her which wanted to hug him and kiss him, from the sight of him being alive. But the just part of her,which made her realize in a second that, if it was really Sultan who was standing in front of her,then he had betrayed her. In all these years she never really felt like a prostitute to herself. She was doing it for Taj, Sultan’s Taj. But now, she really felt like she was a prostitute, used and thrown away by Sultan.
After a while , they both sat on the bed side by side. Both looking down on to the floor, it was she who spoke first “I now know, that you left me, my only question is, for what?” Sultan dint know what to reply, how could he tell her the reasons, why he had left her. Sultan had underestimated her. Sultan thought that she was as weak as he was. He thought that, she would give up and marry someone else. He dint knew how strong she was, strong enough to take such bold steps. He only knew one thing, that he couldn’t tell her the truth. Finally Sultan spoke ” I was an idiot to leave you, but I did it for your own good, I had no job and future, I got scared and ran away, I stay in Kolkatta now, I work at the port, for the imports and exports department. I am very sorry to leave you like that. I thought you would’ve long forgotten me and married someone else. I thought of coming back to you, when I got the job, but lots of time had passed by, and I was sure you would be married to someone else by then.” Sultan lied, he never thought of coming back. Even though she wanted to believe Sultan with all her heart, she knew he was lying. “How have you been? ” Sultan asked her. “Do you mean, what do I do for a living?, then yes, I am the escort you were waiting for. How the hell else am I to raise your child.” After she said this, the world seemed immaterial to Sultan. The fact that he had a son, had astonished him first. “My son? Are you serious?” He asked. “Yes, his name is Taj and he his 5 years old.” She answered. That was all Sultan needed to hear. When he begged her that he wanted to meet him, she refused. She told she would never let him meet his son. But inside she wanted Sultan to meet Taj. She just wanted him to beg her more. Finally, when she agreed, he was relieved. He told her, that he would take her to her home. When she got into his car, she knew he was rich. She told him the address. On the way back home, they dint speak a word. She was still not able to digest the events which took place that night. So much had changed in her life within two hours. She still wanted to slap him. But this was the rare quality she possessed. The quality she had taken from Bharathi amma. She was very strong to accept the twists thrown onto her by life and reacted in a very mature and intellectual way.
When Sultan for the first time saw his son, sleeping on a small bed, nicely tucked in a warm blanket, he broke into tears. That was the most magical moment of his life. He kneeled on the floor beside the bed on which his son was sleeping and stared at him, he allowed his tears to flow without interruption. She was standing at the door of the room, looking at him cry, this made her eyes wet too. Sultan slowly planted a kiss on Taj’s forehead and rose up and went into the hall with her. “Come away with me, leave all of this, take our son and come away with me. I promise you, I’ll never hurt you again, I’ll never leave you again, just come away with me” he said to her. His words seemed real. But how could she believe him. He had left her pregnant on her own fate, and they wouldn’t even have met, if that coincidence had not happened. She told him to come back the next day. When Taj was at school. The next morning when she was taking Taj on to the start of the street, to board his school bus, he told her that he wanted a new note book for math, that he lost his old book. She scolded him for loosing it and took him to a general store to buy him a new one. “I want the donald duck one ” Taj said. She smiled at him and said ok. She bought him that book, they reached the street, the school bus was waiting for him, he jumped from her and ran, she shouted at him to go slow. She wanted to kiss him, she daily did that before he got into the bus, but he ran into the bus that day as he was late. He waved her goodbye from the window. She blew him a flying kiss.
That afternoon, Sultan came back to her place, she had prepared very tasty food for him, and his favorite Gajar ka halwa. When he asked her what her decision was, she replied “Sultan, I can’t trust you anymore, I just can’t. You were moved by the sight of your son, and I believe you meant it when you told me to come away with you. But you are very freckle minded, and dangerous. What is the guarantee , that you won’t leave us in life again? You may get another problem and you will disappear, hell, I don’t even know who you are now. You may even have another wife. Even if you don’t, and even if you really mean to take care of me and your son, I cannot take that risk. I cannot take that risk for my son. I want him to have a secure future, a good future. I can’t leave that on your fate. You will never come back to see us again. And that is my final decision.” After she said this, Sultan dint stop from trying to convince her, for the next 7 days, he daily came to her house in the afternoons, trying to convince her, but she dint accept. She used to tell him to never come back again, but he would come back every afternoon. After a week, he started getting calls from Kolkatta, his absence at work was increasing pressure. His wasn’t a job which he could quit any time he wanted. Once into it, he was into it till death. He had to get back Kolkatta the next day. He went to her home for the last time. He pleaded her with all his strength. She dint accept and told him to leave. When it was time for her to pick up Taj from the street where the school bus dropped him, she went. Taj wasn’t in the bus. The bus boy told her, Taj never got into the bus. She immediately understood what had happened. She rushed to fishland hotel. When she inquired , the receptionist told her , Sultan had checked out that morning itself. She rushed back home, expecting that Sultan would be there with Taj, thinking he must’ve taken him to the park to play. He wasn’t at her house. Her heart started pounding very badly. She dint know what to do, where to search. She went back to the school and started asking people about any where abouts. But all that was in vain. It was night now. She went back home again. She decided to stay at home and wait for Sultan to return with Taj. She cried and prayed all night. When they hadn’t return next morning, she went back to the hotel, to see if she could get any contact information of. Sultan. She wanted to kill herself. Sultan had taken away her child. The only thing she had in her miserable life, her son Taj. He had betrayed her again. But she couldn’t survive this betrayal. At 11 in the morning she got a message on her phone from her bank. It said “Dear customer, INR 2,00,00,000 has been accredited into your account, thank you.” She was shocked. Five minutes later she got a message from a private number. It said ” I have Taj, I need him. He will be safe with me. Please forgive me, and never try to search for me, you will never find me. I love you. I promise you, Taj will be alright.” She called back on that number. It was switched off. Sultan was in Kolkatta with Taj. Taj had the donald duck book in his hand.
Taj closed the book and got back into his fathers bedroom. He digested all the facts of his life which he had just read. He knew he had to find his mother, who was in Hyderabad. He had no clue how he would find her, but was sure as hell that he would. He wondered weather she was alive. She hadn’t seen Taj since 25 years. If she was alibe, where would he find her in Hyderabad? He just hoped that she was alive. And with this hope and happiness that he had a mother, he decided to go to hyderabad to search for her. He forgave Sultan.
To be continued…..