Richa Gupta is out with her new literary fiction, an anthology titled The Jamun Tree and Other Stories (Bridging Borders) that analyzes a cross-section of society including the wealthy elite, the hoi polloi and professionals of all ages from impressionable teens to mature septuagenarians. An insightful collage of human experiences conveyed in genres, characters, and voices as complex and varied as life itself, Richa’s new book is a collection of short stories set against the backdrop of a lurking pandemic in the contemporary times. Here’s an extract from her new book .
The attractive young lady with a sultry pout, wearing a blue wrap-around shirt and tight jeans that accentuated her svelte figure, wiped her eyes, subdued a theatrical sob and answered the interviewer, who was moved by her visible distress, ‘I heard of his shocking death from the Police. His mother barred my entry to his house, so I went to stay at my parents’ place after six years. Why create a public spectacle?’
Jayant, a veteran journalist with a career span of twenty years in which he had risen from a field reporter to a lead anchor on a prominent news channel, had unerringly hit the headlines and had interviewed murderers who shed crocodile tears over their victim’s demise, felt a twinge of pity for her despite himself. The live interview was being broadcast on national television to millions of viewers thirsty for salacious news on the sensational case. The unnatural death of a thirty-eight-year-old, handsome and outrageously successful industrialist, Abhay Pandey, discovered dead in a hotel room in Bangalore, had caught the imagination of the nation and ignited speculations about the cause of the tragedy.
Abhay’s mother had flown down from Chennai on the day of Abhay’s murder and taken a cab to his house after a futile wait for his chauffeur. There had been no one at home to receive her. Within an hour, a manager at Blithe Inn Hotel had called on the landline to say that Abhay Pandey had been discovered comatose with froth at the mouth after they had broken into his hotel room. The hotel doctor had declared him dead, apparently due to the ingestion of poison, and a family member was required to authorize the transfer of his body to the hospital for a post-mortem. She had attended to the requirements and had later lodged an F.I.R. accusing Meghna, Abhay’s live-in partner, of his murder. The case had been making headlines for a week now.
Jayant had received an offer for an interview from Meghna’s defence lawyer, Varun Seth, to give her side of the story. Seizing the chance, he had flown down from Delhi to Bangalore the previous day and now prompted sympathetically, ‘I believe you aren’t allowed to enter Abhay’s house. Did you get to pay your last respects to the person you lived with for six years?’
‘Yes. I went to the hospital where they had taken his body, and his mother permitted me to view his body before it was taken away for a post mortem and then brought home.’
‘You must be sad about her allegations.’
Meghna brushed away her tears and suppressed a sob, ‘I loved him so much and looked after him through all his ups and downs. When he was going through the worst phase of his life four years before, I was with him. And now, I’m accused of his murder and not even allowed to go to his house.’
Suffused with pity, Jayant drew out a tissue from the box beside him and extended it to her. He knew that her tears would move the viewers fascinated with crime in high places. ‘I am sorry. What would you like to say about the accusations of his mother against you?’
‘This is a typical witch hunt. The live-in girlfriend is always blamed by the parent. It would have been different if we had been married. She would then have sympathized with me.’
(Excerpted with permission from the author and the publisher Bridging Borders)