excerpt from: The Wrong Turn by Sanjay Chopra and Namita Roy Ghosh
‘I love her.’ His voice was a mere whisper.
‘More than you love India? More than we love our cause? Our freedom?’
‘She’s the only thing in my life that has mattered to me, the only person who can make me happy. Please don’t ask me to give her up.’
Netaji saw the naked pain in the young man’s face and his heart trembled. He too had stood at such a crossroad and had made his choices. Caged in the cramped confines of the U boat as it moved through the dark oily waters of the Indian Ocean taking him towards Japan, he had again and again gone over the moment of parting from the one he loved so dearly, the knowledge that he might never see her again, the loneliness like a cold desert wind howling wordlessly inside. He knew the anger that could ravage a man’s brain, wondering why me, why me. He knew. Yet, he knew he must ask this of this young man.
‘Yes, Nishonko. I must ask that of you. She has chosen. She has said so to me. She must have the freedom to choose. So, yes I ask you to carry out this sacrifice. I need you to back down. Do it. For me.’
Nishonko stumbled to the door, the wound mortal.
‘Strong, Nishonko, strong. This is not the time for weakness. There will be other women, other loves. Now you have work to do. Go to the engagement party. Show your support. That’s an order. Not a word of this to anyone.’
Nishonko shook his head, wiping his cheeks with the back of his hand, a futile little childhood gesture. Gaffar opened the door silently, his head lowered. Geeta too stood, looking away, as if sparing him the indignity of being a witness to his loss. Nishonko paused at the door, caught in the shadow of the no man’s land of the threshold. Then he was gone, the doorway yawned, empty. Gaffar closed it behind him without a sound as he too stepped outside tactfully.There was silence in the room, the ticking of the clock unnaturally loud. Then it rang the half hour, a lonely, plaintive reminder of time slipping by. Netaji stirred, coming slowly back from the reverie he had been in. He cleared his throat. Geeta looked up.
‘Are you sure you aren’t overestimating his loyalty, his devotion?’
Netaji yawned. It had been a long day.
‘Nishonko? He’s a good man. And he’s still young. A little heartbreak at this age is very salutary for one’s character.’ His voice had a tinge of bitterness. He was very tired.
‘Good night, Geeta.’