The grey VIP suitcase had been a prized possession of the Sarkar household.
Mohan Sarkar for the first time in his twenty two years he left the place where he grew up, studied. The company was a private consulting firm of engineers. Mohan’s first project was in the mining town of Khetri in Rajasthan. His father had just turned sixty and had retired after serving as an officer in the Eastern Railways for twenty five years.
When Mohan was selected as a member of the team being sent to Germany for a workshop on iron welding, his old man received the news with a toothless smile and had proudly presented him with a grey VIP suitcase.
He was going to be the first member in the Sarkar family who would fly in an airplane to a foreign land. A land where no one spoke Bengali. The entire para had come to see him off. As he sat in the rickshaw, holding onto the suitcase, he turned back and looked at the stream of anxious faces. Pain surged through his heart as he fought the tears clouding his eyes. A new future awaited him.
As the bright eyed lad scaled the heights of corporate world, he attended seminars, conferences and workshops around the world accompanied by his trusty VIP suitcase.
Marriage was always on the cards. A foreign returned boy earning a thousand rupees a month – Mohan’s parents were beset with wedding proposals. After careful analysis of horoscopes and consultations with the purohit moshai, they settled on Maya, the younger daughter of Ghoshal Babu. Being the youngest in a household of ten, came with its own perks. Her father was the chief officer at the post office in Katni and she was the apple of her father’s eye. Every week she received one ruppee as allowance. A generous amount for girl whose only business at that age was to attend classes and buy books. But Maya was a born rebel. With the money she bought eclair chocolates, colorful French ribbons and at times the occasional movie ticket. When presented with the news of her wedding to Mohan, she had expressed disbelief and then unhappiness. She shed tears infront of her father pleading to cancel the wedding but in those times a man’s word meant honor. Maya’s charms and pleas had no takers. She felt abandoned.
The first time Mohan looked at his bride was during the jaimala. She had dark, limpid eyes. They darted a quick look at him but before he could smile back, they looked away. Nervous but happy inwardly, he liked her there and then.
Maya turned out to be quite an expert at managing household affairs. She maintained expense sheets and drew budget records. She drove the grey Fiat to the weekly haat and shopped for fresh fruits and vegetables. Before her marriage to Mohan, her life was micromanaged and plabned to the end detail and she used to take pleasure in the small acts of defiance now and then. But life had somsthing else in store. With Mohan at the helm of important meetings and client affairs, he spent more time at the airports and hotels than at home. Everytime Mohan came back from a trio abroad, there was a pearl or diamond in a neat box wrapped for Maya.
On a rare November sunday afternoon Mohan was home. After enjoying a homecooked meal, he sat down to pack his suitcase for the oncoming trip to Chennai. It was then he saw the thin line of crack on the grey surface. His heart thudded against his chest and sank. His mind became numb and all was quiet. He could not hear Maya asking him to help change the bulb. It felt urgent but her voice sounded faint, weak, coming from a very far distance.
Gradually the voice grew loud and there was more talk. Mohan was having trouble processing the words. She looked angry; she was crying.
Maya shot an angry look at the suitcase. She shut the suitcase dragging it out to the front door. Hot tears streaming down the face she lifted it up and threw it down the white marble stairs.
The loud thud announced the first crack in their relationship.