Friday, July 08, 2005

Progati - The tale of Progress (Part VI)

Three shocks in succession - finding Rewa, learning that she was Progati and that she was married to Nabin. The third more so. Neel had been looking at me and expecting some sort of a remark, an exclamations of awe maybe. After all, Kaymes Industries was among the top ten business groups in the country and though it had been affected by family feuds over the past decade, it had held together. And now, under Nabin Mukherjee's flagship, it was on a fast flight to the number one spot. Nabin had had a glorious career, and I had followed it not just out of professional interest, but also because Nabin had once been a college mate. Neel certainly expected me to be impressed, and the shocked expression on my face confused him. Dazed, I allowed myself to be led by Neel and introduced to the couple.

"Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Mukherjee"
"Hello Mr. Survekar. How do you do?"
"Very well. Very well indeed. Meet Dr. Bashir. She is one of the two women to have received an award this afternoon"
"Of course. That was expected. Wasn't it? The common man's economy is a splendid book Dr. Bashir", said Nabin, addressing me, "your ideas have made people sit up and notice of India economy."
"Thanks", I said, "I didn't know that even the uncommon man read my book"
"Oh, then you under estimate yourself Dr. Bashir. I must say you need to develop more confidence in yourself and your achievements"
I didn't know what to say to that, and before I could mutter something incomprehensive, Rewa took over.
"Still the same timid girl. Don't let him intimidate you Saira, he is a big bully", she laughed, took my hand and continued, "You haven't changed one bit. Still look absolutely the same"
"But you have changed a lot. And by a lot, I really mean a lot. I just couldn't recognize you when I first saw you sitting in the front row."
"Yes I've put on a little weight", she laughed. But it was not the same merry carefree laughter I'd heard as a child. It was wistful. There was something to it that I couldn't put a finger on. I didn't dwell on it much, because the look on Neel and Nabin's faces distracted me. Both looked utterly puzzled and Neel even had his mouth hanging slightly open. Rewa was visibly enjoying herself. She hadn't let go of my hand yet - a fact that I found strange.
"You two know each other?", Nabin finally asked.
"Yes, we are childhood chums", said Rewa "we lived in the same locality."
"I didn't know that!", said Neel.
"Yes, we even went to the same school and then the same college.", I ventured. "So you can say that me and Rewa know each other."
"Rewa is dead."