Raj walked the well trodden path right beside the Senchal Lake and its surrounding scenic splendor. In the midst of heavy early morning mist and cool breeze, he was lost in his thoughts as he gently walked on unknown territory.
Abruptly he stopped and looked curiously and then he asked 'Sue…. Sue is that you'? He pinched himself on not getting a reply…. it indeed was 'Suhana' his college sweet heart.
Raj gathered his composure and said 'Hi Suhana, how are you? Come on, It's been ages since we met, isn’t it? He got no reply.
Raj glanced at her closely, Suhana was still extremely beautiful, her fair skin was now albaster white and her face a bit gaunt but she still had those sparkling brown eyes and jet black hair. Raj was dumbstruck for a while. After gathering enough courage he held Suhana’s hand and said, ‘Lets sit by the lake Suhana and catch up on old times please’.
No!! She replied, ‘I got to go, but I’ll see you tomorrow; same place and at the same time’.
The prospect of seeing Sue again made his adrenalin rush. Gosh, he had a lot of catching up to do.
Later while sleeping on his favorite hammock, his thoughts of Sue came back like a flash.
It was his final year B.com. He remembered his unstable family background. His dad had left his mom for a younger woman and had never looked back; he and his mom were left to fend for themselves. His mom had managed to get a small job in a private firm and he managed to attend college during the day while in the evening he would give guitar lessons to students.
This way they managed to somehow make ends meet. Both he and his mom were happy in their own small way. Deep in his heart he was not content with the way they lived and being very ambitious by nature craved for a better life. He wanted to get out of the rat hole that he thought he lived in.
Being bright, assertive, handsome and flamboyant, he had all the qualities to make it big and was hence quite popular with the opposite sex.
He had not seen her before, rather he did not make any attempt to meet or know her. She was quite, rather shy and did not mix her words while talking with her friends.
One day as she sat in the college canteen with her friends he approached her..
Hi! He said ‘I am Raj and you’?
She almost gasped. Nervously she looked around and said. 'Sue’.... ‘Suhana’ she whispered. He glanced at her expressive brown eyes, pearl white complexion and was immediately smitten. It was never the same again.
Suhana was not taken by his personality; she was into studies and quite a girl with a serious demeanor that made him more adamant to pursue her.
After a lot of persuasion finally Suhana agreed on a date with him. He took her to ‘Cafe Royale’ a restaurant worthy of its name. Munching on brownies and coffee he heard her story. It was almost parallel to his story. Her father too had left her mom early in life. Her mom lived in a town faraway while she came to the city for education.
Suhana lived in a paying guest accommodation. She was quite independent, attended college during the day and gave tuitions in the evening to make ends meet. It was exactly like his hard life.
Once he casually asked her why she never made an attempt at modeling, she had everything in her to be one with ease. Sue casually said she was a simple girl and money and glamour was not her forte. This really impressed Raj immensely. Soon they were a well known couple in the college. Though they were in the same college they could get quality time to spend together only at weekends.
Most of the time, Sue preferred to hear him play his guitar and spend quite peaceful moments with him. Those were great times together. He once held her close to him and poured his heart out. He said ‘Suhana one day I'll take you around in a fabulous car, buy you a luxurious house, and take you round the world’.
Sue just smiled back and said ‘You are my world Raj, I don't need anything more’. The thought brought goose pimples on him as he remembered those lovely days.
Soon they were in their final year and were looking forward to their life ahead. Like they say, good times can turn at any time; his life too took a u turn. Young Payal made an unexpected entry in his life.
Payal's father was an extremely successful NRI businessman living in the United States. It remained a mystery to him as to why Payal had come to study in India. Payal befriended all his friends. Her amiable nature, good looks and her riches made her extremely popular.
She came to college driving a white Honda and the most chic and happening clothes. Almost all the college boys wanted to befriend her and ask her out.
During their last summer break, Sue came to him and said, 'Raj moms ill, I have to go and assist her to recover and recoup’. He was aghast. He wanted to spend the entire break with her. He was planning to introduce her to his family and move their relation forward.
‘Sue I’ll miss you’. He cried on her shoulders.
‘I'll be back very soon Raj’ she promised. He genuinely missed Sue a lot.
That’s when Payal filled the void. Payal took a fancy for him and soon invited him and his friends for her birthday party. At the party Raj was gob smacked seeing her house which was a penthouse. She had an array of servants in attendance at her beck and call. All this made quite an impression on his ambitious mind.
He soon became mesmerized with Payal. She lived like a queen. She too was intensely ambitious like him. She wanted to return to the United States soon after her degree and pursue a glamorous career. She wanted to start a fashion house and also launch her own perfume.
One fine day she approached Raj and said boldly ‘I'm in love with you’. He very well knew that it was coming. ‘Payal I need some time’ he said. Yeah! She said ‘I know about you and Sue. What life can Sue offer you? You would be struggling all your life with her. Is that what you want?
Think and let me know’ she said. She also informed him that she had already spoken about him to her dad and her dad was all for it.
Manmohan Sinha, Payal's father, owned a chain of restaurants in New York, San Diego, and many other states in the US. Payal was his only child. He needed a son in law who would take care of his daughter as well his business some day and Raj filled the place to the tee. Being ambitious Raj was convinced to go with Payal and her dad's business plans.
He broke the news to Sue gently. She was devastated but managed to remain composed. She said ‘Payal's perfect for you Raj’. Please go ahead.
Time passed and one day he landed at Sue's PG accommodation to give her the invitation for his wedding. Sue had simply vanished. Even her landlady did not know where she went. This news skipped his heartbeat and wanted to earnestly know how she was.
One thing he knew beneath the soft demeanor of Sue was that she was a strong girl and could take good care of her life.
Several years passed by. He got almost all what he ever wished for. Enchanting world trips, plush apartments in every state of US, and a rich array of cars. Both were extremely busy and they almost led independent lives.
Payal was not a bad person but being career minded, business was a way of life for her. She had become a successful business person and had no time for a family life.
Raj was soon disillusioned with life. Nothing seemed right and was soon a very unhappy person. They decided to part ways under mutual consent. Payal saw to it that he got a good chunk of her father's money as he had worked hard for it. Not having any children made things easy for them and soon they were divorced.
Soon after, he returned to India. Being financially secured there was nothing to worry. He now wanted to have a more stress free and a spiritual life.
His good friend Basu suggested him to settle in Darjeeling. Basu lived there and wanted Raj to settle there too. According to Basu, Darjeeling was the 'Queen of the hills’ and the most peaceful place for the spiritually inclined. It rested among the mountains with glistening Mount Kanchenjunga towering over the azure sky. Raj bought a quaint cottage and took up a job as a manager for ‘Happy valley tea estate’ which was run by the aged Mrs. Rama Mohan.
Not that he needed a job. He was financially secured thanks to Payal, but to just keep himself occupied he took up employment.
While deep in his thoughts the watch alarm rang. He scrambled clumsily as his thoughts came abruptly to the present.
He dressed up fast and rushed to the Senchal Lake. Sue was already there.
‘Did you miss me Raj?’ cried Sue. ‘Of course I did, Suhana’. Then they got on talking about life in general. He told her about his life in the US with Payal and their various businesses and how he finally decided to come back to India.
‘Sue’, he said ‘I could never forget you. You were always there in my heart all these years. I regret today for what I have done. If ever I could go back and mend ways. Sue, can we get back to our old days again please?’
He saw a very sad expression on her face, ‘I don't want to hurry Sue, think about it, OK?’
They spoke for nearly an hour about everything under the sun. While parting, he again asked her, ‘Tell me Sue, can we start a new relationship again?’ She shivered and her lips turned blue. It was getting too cold by the lake. ‘Sue you were my only love. Wish I had never met Payal. I regret everything today. I was a callous fool, but now I'll do anything to make you happy, my dear’.
Sue was very quite. She promised to meet him the next day.
She never turned up after that. Raj went to Senchal Lake every day. She never came. He cursed himself for not asking her where she lived. For some reason he had forgotten to ask her.
He hurriedly went to meet Mrs. Rama Mohan and was just in time as she wheezed with her chronic asthma attack. ‘Raj, please get my medicine from by bedroom closet’, she cried. He ran to her bedroom to get it. As he entered her bedroom he froze. There on the wall stood a framed photo of Suhana decked with a sandal wood garland.
He gave Mrs. Rama her medicine and once she was composed, asked her about the photo. ‘Oh!’ cried Mrs. Rama. ‘That was my daughter Suhana. She died eight years back. She committed suicide. She had told me she loved a boy but he ditched her for a rich girl. She was heart broken and committed suicide on 5th April eight years back.’ Raj gasped as he remembered his wedding date.
‘Look at the irony’ she said. ‘Three years back her father died and left this large estate in his daughter’s name not knowing she was already dead. If she would have been alive she would have been a very rich women today. I curse that boy who ditched her for money. He will never be happy’.
Raj walked the path near the Senchal Lake. The mist had by now cleared and the sun was bright.
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