Life through diverse characters
Richa Gupta’s new book The Jamun Tree and Other Stories (Bridging Borders), the fourth one by her, is also a reflection of life through diverse characters and stories ranging from an almost-human Jamun tree to a journalist looking for a scoop and an investigator resolving a mysterious murder.
An anthology that dissects and analyses a cross section of society to decipher psychological truths, emotional reality and subjective morality in our complex existence, here’s an extract from one of her stories in the anthology called Another Chance at Love, where we follow a Civil Lawyer Vanya as she searches for love again!
Following is an extract from the book
‘A pleasure to meet you! You are even better-looking than your profile picture led me to expect!’
‘Thank you,’ she said, unable to return the compliment. He was stouter and balder than his picture, probably taken years before, had indicated. ‘Nice to meet you too.’
After focusing on the hovering waiter and menu and ordering two sweet lime sodas, he had returned his attention to her, ‘It’s unusual that someone like you has remained unattached for so long.’
‘If looks were a criterion for marriage, film stars and fashion models wouldn’t have a late marriage and multiple divorces.’
As a civil lawyer, she had no illusions about marriage: having witnessed ugly scenes during divorce proceedings and former lovers turn into inexorable enemies who couldn’t bear the sight of each other. Since her LLM examination in Civil Law fourteen years before, she had sloughed through being a junior lawyer to drafting cases for individual clients to cross-examining witnesses and making final arguments to wrangling payments from unwilling clients. The gruelling process and her former experience with men had taught her that there were numerous shades to human character and one’s perception of right and wrong.
‘That’s true. But it does count for the initial attraction.’ ‘Yes, but after that, what works is companionship and adaptability.’
‘Agreed. That is how it was with my ex-wife. My daughter and I miss her very much.’
‘I’m sorry. How did she pass away?’
‘Breast cancer discovered at a very late stage. She was really brave about it.’
She had been impressed by his commitment to his wife’s memory and his acknowledgement of her role in his life.
‘What is your daughter’s name? Where does she study?’
‘Jasmine is in the eighth standard in Mount St. John School.’
‘Lovely name,’ she said as the waiter brought their order.
‘Let’s talk of better things. What do you think of the new TV series on the life of a lawyer, Justice Please?’
She waxed eloquent on the realistic aspects of the show, some incidents being reflective of the cases she had worked on. Just like the main character, a lawyer named Brenda, had tackled a love jihad case in the third episode, she had approached the Family Court in Delhi to procure a divorce for a victim of love jihad, the forced conversion of religion after marriage.
‘It must be interesting to meet a variety of people. My work is boring.’
‘I love my profession. I would never be able to sit idle at home.’
‘I agree. One has to be involved in something: if not work, then a pastime such as music, cooking, gardening etc.’
‘What is your hobby? How do you unwind after work?’
‘Cooking. I am an excellent cook.’
‘I must taste your special dishes some time.’
‘Let’s do a dinner this weekend. You must try my cannelloni.’
‘I must confess I’m no good in the kitchen. My hobby is reading. I’m currently reading this book about a dystopian future in which…’
They had meandered on from the latest novels to market trends in retailing to the current political scenario. All in all, it had been an amicable encounter, and she had been open to meeting him again.
They had met for the second time in his three-bedroom flat with framed photographs of his late wife Rohini, a pleasant homemaker, adorning the lounge and Jasmine beating her hollow in a game of carom. Every nook and corner bore an impression of its former mistress: the placement of furniture, the upholstery and the paintings and souvenirs that decorated the walls retained as she had left them. As Jasmine had led her to various memorabilia, she had felt the distinctive genial aura of Rohini. The beef cannelloni had been a gastronomic delight, and she had left replete in mind and body.
Then, she had passed her test of culinary skills with flying colours when he and Jasmine had come for dinner to her place. Of course, her Italian meatballs had been nowhere as good as his cannelloni and she had had to scrutinize and follow a recipe; but she had been pleased with the result. They had met a few more times, each occasion being amicable and bringing about an understanding between them.
At the last meeting, when Jasmine was spending the night with her friend, they had cuddled in his lounge to watch a thriller together. She had found his hands groping for her under the blanket midway into the movie and done nothing to halt his exploration. Soon, they were sprawled on the sofa, lost in each other, the movie all but forgotten. Somehow, they had landed on the floor and she had had an orgasm on the hard coolness of the marble floor with his weight gently poised above her.
She was happily dreaming of a future with him when suddenly…he had disappeared.
Buy the book here