‘So, you love my son and expect to marry him?’ he asked her. His tone was cool and composed, yet she could sense the threat in his voice. From the time he started speaking to her, she was seeing only red hue. She gripped the arms of the teak sofa she sat on tightly, but she was losing her grip, her palms were sweating. Bhushan, why did you leave me alone with your Father? You promised to stay by my side. Please come back soon. She prayed.
She shifted her gaze from his face and moved her eyes below resting them on his white shirt and white dhoti wishing that the white colour would soothe her senses.
‘You did not answer me! What will you do if I don’t consent to the marriage?’
A red hue emerged again in front of her eyes and erased the colour of his white clothes. She shut her eyes tight for few moments. Wondering if he would consider her actions as lack of respect, she opened them again. Her vision was clear now; he had fixed her in his gaze but was not talking. She decided not to let go off this chance.
‘I like your son,’ she mumbled and cleared her throat. ‘I mean we both love each other. We will be very happy if you agree for our marriage.’
Yes, that was right. What else could I tell him? She wondered.
‘I asked you, what will you do if I don’t agree? Do you know of our family status and name? Do you know the inheritance Mahesh carries forward? Moreover, who are you? An orphan! Can you the least name your parents, their surnames so that I can trace your roots? No. Even your parents were orphans. That means I cannot even trace your bloodline. How did you expect me to accept you into my family?’ His words were threatening yet his tone was flat and did not carry any threat or harm. Yet, the red hue lingered brightly in front of her.
I cannot handle any more of this conversation; I cannot sit and bear his voice.
‘Mahesh always told that you would respect his choice. Believe me; he loved me after I told everything about my life. Please talk to him once before you take any decision. I shall take leave now.’ She got up from the chair clutching her handbag and walked towards the door without his consent.
‘Stop!’ This time the treble in his voice synced with the red hue and she knew beyond doubt that she was in danger. Run. Escape from here.
‘I have already discussed with my son and understood that trying to convince him is vain. He is in your enchantment now; he would not listen to any of my words. That leaves me with only one way.’ He rose from his chair and walked towards her. He moved his right arm behind his back and fished out an object. The black metal glittered under the sunrays that entered from the large window in the room. Her eyes were not mistaken in recognizing the black shine. A gun!
‘What are you doing? Mahesh will be coming. He will not live when he sees me dead.’
‘That is my worry. You just rest in peace.’ A red colour blurred her eyes and a banging sound reverberated in her ears. A few moments of blackness engulfed her eyes. No colour would ever bother her. ‘Mahesh!’ she uttered her favourite word once. She thought that her feeble voice would not reach his ears, but it did.
‘Preethi! Preethi!’ he was shouting. ‘What happened? Why did you shout? Wake up Preethi!’ he shook her.
She opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of his tensed face. She sat upright on the car seat and moved her hands to her temple examining it. There was no bullet hole. I am not shot.
Mahesh cupped her face in his hands, he moved his hand on her face gently wiping off the sweat drops that formed on her temple.
‘What happened? Why were you screaming Preethi? Did you have a bad dream?’
‘Dream! Was that a dream?’ she mumbled. She realized that she had dozed off in the car seat and yes, she had dreamed. ‘Such an awful dream!’ Her voice quivered.
‘Mahesh, I am scared. What if your parents do not accept me?’
He started laughing. ‘Preethi! For the nth time, you are asking me the same question and I am giving you the same answer. They have already agreed to our marriage. You did speak with my mother two days back and said that she is sweet. Why do you fear again?’
‘I don’t know. All this seems so unnatural to me. Your Father is such a famous personality and your family is very rich. I wonder how I fit in. How did they even accept me? I think you had left them with no choice. They love you so they compromised out of the fear of losing you. They will never like me.’ She started sobbing.
Mahesh moved close to her and hugged her. ‘Preethi, I have assured you many times. I think your mind will be clear of all the doubts only when you meet them. So, let me drive fast and reach home so that you will get to know.’ He wiped the tears shimmering on her cheeks and kissed her lightly on her lips. ‘Relax Preethi, I am there with you always. Remember.’ She smiled feebly and nodded.
He started driving again. Preethi shifted her focus to the green paddy fields by the road. She rolled down the window and let the cool breeze flow in.
‘You are lucky to be born and brought up in such a serene place. This is heaven,’ she said looking at Mahesh. He looked at her admiringly, pulled her close, and kissed her on her lips.
‘Watch the road Mr. Mahesh, else you will drive us into the fields,’ she said pushing him away.
‘You should see my village and my home. You will love it more,’ he said.
‘I am waiting. My encounters with villages are only glances from cars, buses, and trains. I had never stepped into a paddy field earlier. And you own over a hundred acres of the fields in your village,’ she said raising her eyebrows.
He laughed. ‘Not me Preethi, my family owns those acres. I own only a small company that develops some mobile applications and even you work there. As I told you earlier, I believe in claiming my earnings, not my forefathers’ inheritance.’
Mahesh’s native was a big village named Perubanda in Guntur district. His Father, Sreenivasa Rao is a landlord and the richest person in the village. Mahesh and Preethi loved each other and he was taking her for the first time to meet his parents. Preethi’s nervousness grew as they reached Mahesh’s village, but Mahesh assured her that his parents will definitely like her and they had always respected his choices.
Mahesh had told Preethi earlier that he lived in a big family with three elder brothers and two elder sisters. All of them were married and settled in the village. Yet, Preethi was in for a shock when she saw thirteen pairs of eyes waiting for her. Mahesh introduced each of the family members to Preethi and when they spoke with her, she could release a bit of tension from her nerves.
‘You seem relaxed! What happened to your doubts?’ Mahesh whispered in her ear.
‘I did not see any problems yet, they are Pink, Turquoise and bright orange,’ she smiled. She waited eagerly to meet his parents.
‘Preethi, keep aside your riddles for a while,’ he said pinching her. Just then, a voice called out ‘Mahesh’ and a stream of red colour blurred Preethi’s eyes.
‘Dad, Mom,’ Mahesh exclaimed and went and hugged his parents.
‘So, you have brought the girl with you. Preethi right?’ Sreenivasa Rao asked as he walked towards Preethi.
The red hue in front her darkened and turned into bright crimson. Preethi was confused. Red colour, in such a bright shade, rarely appeared in front of her.
‘Mom, Dad, Meet Preethi,’ Mahesh introduced her. The colour in front of her slowly lost its brightness and a serene rose gradually replaced it. She gathered her senses and bent down touching the elders’ feet for their blessings.
‘You are beautiful,’ Mahesh’s mother, Kalavathi, said holding her shoulders. ‘I like my Son’s choice.’ Preethi relaxed seeing the Pink colour back.
Preethi leaned on the headboard of the cosy bed in the guest room staring at the high ceiling lost in questions. She had dinner with Mahesh’s family and chitchatted with everyone in the house, everything was normal except when Sreenivasa Rao spoke. His voice was painting the red colour and was sending fear through her spine. She had never had this experience with strangers. She wondered if she had to discuss with Mahesh, but suppressed the thought. What will I say? Your Father gives me Red colour and scares me. She wiped the thoughts from her mind and slept.
The experiences continued the next day. One instance when she heard Sreenivasa Rao raise his voice on a servant the red colour almost blurred her vision. This had happened only once in the past when a hostel warden in her missionary school beat her up. She was twelve then, the warden soon gathered bad reputation after showing repeated instances of his cruelty and was thrown out of the school. The warden’s case was different. He had beaten her and scared her, his voice had blurred her vision from then on.
I am meeting Mahesh’s father for the first time in my life. Why am I having such experiences? Have I met him before? she thought. She decided to discuss with Mahesh and approached him.
‘My parents have consented for our marriage. They have called our Pandit to discuss marriage dates,’ Mahesh said. He hugged her tight and kissed her.
Mahesh and his family accepted me knowing that I am an orphan. I cannot spoil this happiness with my unnecessary fears. She kept quiet.
She stayed at Mahesh’s home for another two days. She roamed around the village, met many other relatives of Mahesh. She tried to avoid Sreenivasa Rao as much as possible during her stay. She felt the urge to share her confusion with someone and discussed the matter with her friend Sailaja.
Sailaja grew up with Preethi in the same missionary school. ‘You have always had this problem Preethi. I know you see colours when people talk. The teachers paid no attention, because they could not afford consultation with good doctors. However, you are on your own now. You are working and independent. Let us go and meet a doctor before you discuss this problem with Mahesh,’ she suggested.
Preethi was sitting with Dr. Narendranath, a neurologist, the next day. Thirty minutes into the meeting, she felt confident and assured. The Doctor could at least name her problem. ‘You are Synesthetic Miss Preethi. There are many cases of Synaesthesia, some are useful to the people, and some are problematic.’
‘Useful, how can any disorder be useful,’ Preethi questioned.
‘Was it not useful to you until now Preethi? You could judge the reality of people based on their tone and not their words. You could read their mind to an extent. When a person talks, his voice vibrates based on his mental state. Your mind could comprehend the vibrations. Synesthetic can see colours for words, your ability varies, you could see different colours and hues based on the vibration, the tone of the person. You can know their state of mind to an extent. Was it not helpful to you in your life?’
‘Yes it was.’ Preethi replied. ‘It is not of help anymore. I see Red, I get scared because of it when I hear my Father-in-law’s voice. To me, this is no more an ability. I am worried.’
‘Did you have this experience before?’
‘I did have, but not with strangers. I saw Red earlier when people threatened me. But, I saw Red when I met my Father-in-law for the first time.’
‘You might have been scared thinking that he might not accept you…’
‘No Doctor, I don’t see colours based on my mood. I see colours when other person talks to me. My Father-in-law spoke with me in a very normal tone, believe me. He provided his agreement for marriage. He is talking to me normally. Yet, I see Red colour, I see it when I hear his voice even over phone.’
The Doctor sat quietly thinking for a while. ‘Are you sure, you have not met him or spoke with him earlier. Synaesthesia develops in a person’s childhood. You might have met him in your childhood and cannot recall that meeting any more. But, his voice is registered in a corner of your mind and inducing this fear.’
‘I don’t know. I cannot remember meeting him. What do you suggest now?’
‘My suggestion depends on your choice Miss Preethi. As I said, you can ignore the issue and lead a normal life as you have lead until now. But, if the problem is bothering you a lot, I can suggest hypnosis to retrieve your childhood memories and I might be successful in finding the problem.’
Preethi did not hesitate to decide. ‘I will undergo hypnosis Doctor. I cannot live with this problem. The person will be my Father-in-law. I am twenty four year old now and have always wanted a family. I will have a family now and I cannot enter into family life with this problem.’
‘Ok Miss Preethi, I will call a hypnotist friend of mine after two days.’
Preethi was sitting with Dr. Sekhar, the hypnotist, and Dr. Narendranath in a dimly lit room. In ten minutes, she was in a trance and after fifteen minutes, the hypnotist gradually transported her to her childhood. She reached her five-year old state, the exact date when she lost her parents and was orphaned.
‘My neighbour picked me up from school. She has a son of my age. His name is Ravi. She is feeding both of us. I am asking about Mom, I want to go home. She said that Mom is not at home and will be coming after some time. I see Dark Orange and I think she is lying. I don’t tell her. Last time when I had told her that I see colours, she made fun of me.’
‘Go on Preethi. What happened then?’
‘I am playing with Ravi in the small garden in front of the house. I hear voices from my home. I think my Mom is back and run to my home. The main door is ajar. I do not find her in the hall and walk into the kitchen. Then I hear a man shouting in the bedroom. He is speaking many bad words that I do not understand. But, his voice….’
Preethi paused and started panting. She was shaking in fear.
‘Preethi….Preethi. What happened? Whom do you hear? What is he saying?’ Dr. Sekhar continued questioning.
‘I think we should bring her back. She is terrified. This state is not good for her.’ Dr. Narendranath suggested. However, Preethi spoke. Her voice was choked.
‘The voice….the person is Sreenivasa Rao. He opened the door and came out. He did not see me standing in the kitchen. I walk into the bedroom and see my parents lying there. I only see Red colour. They are covered in dark red colour. They are dead.’ She cried bitterly.
‘Preethi…Its fine. Its over. It is your past. You will have to come back to present.’
The hypnotist transported Preethi to present and she opened her eyes. She did not stop crying. The doctors stared at her. The room was dead silent for few minutes.
Dr. Narendranath spoke finally. ‘I think you know your problem now. I might not be able to solve your problem. I can give you some medicines to reduce stress and we can continue hypnosis sessions to sooth your mind.’
Preethi was not listening. She picked her handbag and quietly left the hospital. She was sitting with the neighbours from her childhood after two days.
‘Lakshmi Aunty, You said Mom and Dad died in an accident. You lied. Tell me the truth,’ she asked.
‘I don’t know anything Preethi. I had to lie. That day, your Mother requested me to pick you up from school. She said that she has some unwanted visitor and she does not want you to meet him. When I walked into your house, all I could see were your parents’ dead bodies. You were at the bedroom door. You had fainted. Uncle and I did your parents’ rituals. Our financial state did not allow us to take you in and your parents did not leave any savings behind. We had to send you to missionary school.’ Preethi saw blue hues; Lakshmi aunt was not hiding anything. Only sadness resonated in her voice.
‘Did my parents talk about family or any relatives?’
‘Your Father was an orphan. He mentioned many times. Your Mother did have a family, but she said that they disowned her and never spoke about them.’
‘Did she ever mention a person named Sreenivasa Rao?’
‘No Preethi. She never mentioned any people.’ Preethi felt dejected. She leaned back on the sofa silently sipping the juice Aunty offered her.
‘Preethi, I had sold out the little furniture and jewellery of your parents to support you at school. There were few papers and personal belongings I transferred to a trunk. The trunk is in the attic, I did not bother to look into it ever. I wonder it might be of any help.’
Preethi sat upright hearing Aunty. ‘Yes Aunty, give me the trunk. I want to try every possibility.’
Preethi inspected the trunk along with Sailaja. She called Mahesh after an hour. She spoke with him for an hour and he listened to her in a shock. Mahesh sat in front of her, as still as a statue. He was perplexed.
‘You are telling that my Dad killed your parents. You are claiming this based on the colours you see. Have you gone crazy?’ Mahesh shouted.
Preethi looked at Sailaja silently. Sailaja left into the bedroom, came back with two photographs, and handed them to Mahesh. Mahesh did not speak after seeing the photos. He walked out with the photos in his hand.
Mahesh and Preethi fixed their gaze on Sreenivasa Rao as he sat immobile staring at the photos in his hand. He did not utter a word, yet Mahesh and Preethi understood every unspoken word.
Sreenivasa Rao spent the rest of his life in jail for two murders he committed years back. He lost the trust and respect of his Son and his family. He lost his Son that meant he lost everything in the world. The words that he last spoke with Preethi were not in red colour.
‘Your mother was my step sister, my Father’s second wife’s daughter. Father always loved her more; he brought her home after her mother’s death. Mother and I always stayed silent. When your mother married your father and left home, I thought that her chapter in our lives ended. Years later, Father expired leaving more than half of the property in her name. I felt betrayed and lost. I confronted her and she said she did not want any inheritance. She said that she was happy with her husband and did not need the wealth. I was not convinced. I did not want to repeat my Mother’s mistake. My Mother too believed my Father when he promised that he will keep his second family away. He failed her trust. He called it destiny that his second wife died unexpectedly and he was left with no choice. I did not believe in destiny this time. I did not want her back in my life again. My soul was filled with hatred towards her. I killed her.’
Preethi married Mahesh after few months. She always wondered how different people were. She had met a father who killed to save his inheritance and a son who never wanted a claim on the inheritance. She had her share of inheritance now and the share was much bigger than Mahesh’s. Nevertheless, all that mattered in her life was his love. She rarely saw red colour now. She did not need a medicine or hypnotist.