Pranam Swami ji & Friends,

Jai Shri Hari! . I present to you the third installment of the story Noir. You can read the first chapter : Midnight Blue and the second chapter Vanilla Sky for continuity to the story below. I am very lucky to have found an community. My writings are dedicated to the random acts of kindness that the people in this community perform as well as inspire others to follow. Thank you @rashmi-ramanathan for your saving grace. I sincerely hope that all of you enjoy reading this story as much as I am enjoying crafting it.

He kept a tiny comb in the back pocket of his trouser. Any reflective surface could become the spectator of Bollywood punchlines and the jerk-back of comb styling the oiled hair back. The chiselled moustache accompanying a pair of goggles would raise the intensity and macho of the dialogue.

Lallan was the only child of pandit ji. Since pandit ji knew that Lallan was going to be the village priest after him, he never wasted any money on sending him to school. There was nothing the school could teach Lallan that he could not. Lallan had simply spare time, which he enjoyed spending either watching movies or reminiscing them. He was so engrossed in movies that living life as a commoner was below him. He was the superstar and life was his stage.

Everyone knew how to catalyze Lallan for on spot melodramatic amusement. One day people were gathered around the village well which was being dug. They incited him mischievously to show some of his talent. It seemed unfair to them that they could not witness his exemplary gifts. Lallan ballooned up and started enacting the scenes of the new movie, Sholay(Fire) and in the end, jumped in the empty well to bring the theatrical performance to a defying end. Everyone cackled into claps and laughter. Lallan was proud of himself to give his fans a taste of his humbleness despite his stardom. The villagers had always known to keep themselves entertained at his expense.

Cows grazed the shrubs outside the door. The driver kept the horn pressed to move them out of the way. But they didn’t heed any attention. Women who stood at the doorway holding the warm plate of lightened camphor and flower petals shooed at the adamant cows and elbowed them to make way for the car bringing in the newlyweds. The driver parked the car right at the doorway wiping off the flower rangoli the children had made for their new sister-in-law. They gathered around the car and shrieked at the careless driver to reverse the car back from their rangoli. The driver pointed them to the backseat and asked them to quiet down.

Lata looked beautiful in a saree and golden ornaments. She held open the window and sat close to the door of the car. Lallaan sat at the other letting the fans admire them. Women from the house and neighbourhood welcomed them in by showering flower petals and performing aarti to ward off any evil eye.

Lallan was happy that he was married. Not that he was in love with the girl or anything. He was glad to have someone except his mother to do things for him while he would have to do otherwise. He would not have to worry about a thing anymore and he was right. Lata would wake up every day to shuffle the duties between a wife and a daughter in law. She remembered all the stories that aai had told her about managing the household. It was exhausting but she had gotten used to bringing water from the well, cooking, serving others and then eating at last, and then spending the hours before the next meal cleaning the house.

Lallan mostly held back his love towards her but sometimes he would slip and enjoy her companionship. He would talk to her about the new movie he had watched with his friends. Lata wished if he could also take her to the movie sometimes. Lallan wanted that too but his friends would make fun of him so he let her stay indoors. They had already mocked her a few times but he would not retort back at them. He had seen them whispering among themselves on the wedding day. He tried to ignore but he was aware that they were jeering at his fate.

Before his marriage was arranged, he had sworn in front of his peers that he would marry a girl that would instill envy in lookers by. Lata was benchmarked to the likes of heroines where she fell short of his glamorous expectations. He was disheartened when he came to know he was getting married to her but he did not dare to go against the will of his parents. He felt that his stardom was eclipsed because he had failed his followers and his friends’ ridicule were the caustic reminder of his fall from heaven. Lallan could not love her even if he wished to.

Years passed by cleaning and upkeeping the house. Baba and aai would sometimes visit her. When they would sit for meals, the grooms’ parents would start discussing horoscopes and the probabilities for Lata having a boy or a girl child. Lata’s mother in law, Janki would feign at the chances favouring the birth of a baby girl. She was so possessed of the fear that she decided to take matters into her hand. She would administer every step of Lata’s life in favour of a grandson. From the food, she ate to the direction in which she slept everything was adjusted to meet the requirements of a boy. As if the world was not aligned enough for them.

Grief struck the family when they found out that in spite of being a priest pandit ji’s could not change the sex of the infant with his astrological abilities. The house went silent for a few weeks. Lata was scared for her life as no one talked to her about giving birth to a baby girl. Addendum to this, pandit ji passed away a few months later. Even though it may have been because of over-indulgent habits, Lata and her infant were unanimously blamed for every ill that befell the family.

With the village priest dead, Lallan was supposed to take his fathers’ place. He was yet to learn Vedic rituals from his father. Even though his father insisted, he shrugged it off to later thinking that there was ample time for the classes. Without a syllable knowledge of prayers and verses, he was not suited enough to perform any service either at the temple or in the village. The villagers were aware of his shortcomings, therefore they invited the priests from another village to perform at their Vedic functions. The house had lost their only income. Lallan could not take a menial job and work in the farms because stars lived starry lives.

Lata would sometimes ask for money from Baba and Aai to look after the child. She kept the money hidden in her small iron trunk that she had brought from her house. It was not only because the family expenses had started eating into their savings but also the distressful fact that the house fell to shambles at Lallan’s hand. The unexpected demise of his father, the fall in his opulence and the sudden realization of his responsibilities as a father took the wind out of his sails. The new movie, Sharabi(The Drunkard) had hit the theatres. Finally, Lallan had succeeded in internalising the character and started living up to it. It was now going to be his performance for this lifetime.