Rakesh had been in the city for a while and had been Bangalored over the years. He wondered about how Bangalore had changed over the last decade. A beep on his computer drew his attention back to the code that he had been testing.
He had finished his engineering and joined the herd of software engineers spending half his waking time in front of the blue screen.
With the delivery coming up in a week, he had to stay back late and finish some testing. Lack of sleep and a long day were taking their toll on him and to keep himself awake he was alternating between Times News and the testing screen.
Warning from the Bangalore Police Department, as seen in the local newspapers: Miscreants sometimes act as if their car has been broken down and they are seeking your help. When you stop and step out of the car, a gang appears out of nowhere and flees away with your valuables and your vehicle. It’s advisable not to stop the car for any unknown person.
He saw the system time striking midnight and decided to catch-up with the rest of his work on the next day. He got into the lift and waited impatiently as it descended slowly towards the ground floor.
The moment the lift doors opened, a spine-chilling gust of cold air greeted him. He came to the lobby only to realize that it was extremely cold after the heavy evening showers. His teeth were like a Morse code machine, punching the code into thin air because of the spine chilling breeze. Kittkittkitt. It was pitch dark outside. He could hear the distant growls of the zooming cars and trucks on the Ring Road. Rubbing his hands in an attempt to keep himself warm, he moved to the entrance gate. As the human count on the road became sparse, the canines started patrolling with their tails up. Dogs added the required Indianness to the office landscape. One of them looked inquisitively at him and after a moment joined its pack, which was howling together at a distance. In spite of all the atheism and rationale he was bred in all these years, he was still feeling really uncomfortable with a pack of dogs howling at a distance for no reason. It was a bad omen.
He quickly got into his car and closed the doors. His vehicle came to life and he drove at full speed with everything that his beast had to offer.Heavy metal music added to the required adrenaline rush. He was driving all alone on the Ring Road with no other vehicle in sight. Then he encountered a sight which screamed DANGER! At a distance he saw a man wearing helmet running towards him, who then started frantically waving at his vehicle. He recalled incidents of robbery on the highways and stepped on the accelerator. With his palms sweating and nerves on edge, he accidentally hit the man and sent him falling to the footpath. He stopped the car and watched for any movement from the injured man. Still skeptical, he kept one foot on the accelerator. The injured man was breathing heavily and trying to hold on to the ground. Then he saw two men approaching in the rear view mirror. The gang had come. He switched off the headlights and zoomed onto the road ahead.
He reached home and realized that he was trembling with fear. He was terrified and his head was spinning recounting the last 30 minutes of his life. He pictured himself being arrested, thrown out of his job and jailed, and all the bad things that would happen to him in jail. Suddenly, the “Kill Bill” whistle ringtone rang and an unknown number flashed on his mobile, interrupting his train of thoughts. He kept staring at the phone with shaky hands wondering who could be calling up so late. He didn’t have the courage to answer and it went dead. It rang again a few more times but he didn’t pick up. Later, with great difficulty, he hit the bed and slept off hoping that he would wake up and realize that all of this was just a bad dream.
He was jolted out of bed with the familiar ‘Kill Bill’ whistle ringtone. Groggily, he answered the call. The brightness of the room nearly blinded him and he squinted. He jumped out of bed with shock when he heard the news on the phone. He was told that his room mate, Adarsh, had met with an accident.
When Rakesh reached the hospital, he was taken to Adarsh’s bed where he noticed that Adarsh was under the influence of sedatives and was sleeping. He was numbed when the doctor told him that Adarsh was hit by a car and his legs were badly injured. It would take him a couple of months before he could start walking normally.The doctor also told that they had tried to reach Rakesh on the previous night several times as his number was marked as Adarsh’s emergency contact. Rakesh instantly understood the entire chain of events and stood there listening numb with shock.He wondered why Adarsh had been running towards the car wearing his helmet and would Adarsh know it was him. It was a genuine mistake, wasn’t it? While the war was going on in his head, he noticed Adarsh waking up.
Rakesh helped him to sit and asked how he was doing and if he needed anything. He told Adarsh everything that the doctor had told about his condition. Adarsh looked devastated and started crying. He asked Adarsh to recount the events of the previous night. He told Rakesh that while riding home, his mobile slipped from his pocket and fell on the road. He parked his bike and ran towards an approaching car asking to stop, to avoid it from running over his mobile. But the driver ran over the mobile and him. He pointed towards the smashed iPhone. Rakesh asked if he saw the driver or the number plate. Adarsh said that due to the blinding headlights, he could not figure out anything. Listening to this, Rakesh was relieved for the moment. He told Adarsh to rest while he brought back some breakfast for him.
Rakesh got up with a heavy feeling in his head. His heart was filled with too much guilt. He felt like a criminal. Stepping out of Adarsh’s ward, he realized that his legs were no longer supporting his frame anymore. With a heavy heart, he collapsed into a chair at the reception.Thoughts from the previous night, kept flashing before his eyes. He tried hard to shield them and divert his attention but he failed miserably. The thought of Adarsh in crutches broke him and he started sobbing.
Should he confess?
The news on the television interrupted the war inside him. A chirpy news reader was saying: Last night a member of the highway mugger gang was hit by a speeding car on the Ring-Road around midnight. The description of the victim by an eye-witness matched the records of police. The gang fled before the police reached the spot.
“Arey Ananditaji, Aap bhi
Kerala ja rahe ho? Bête ke paas?” Parminder Kaur said walking towards Anandita along
with her husband; who was waiting in Dumdum airport lounge. Anandita in a Bengal cotton saree and neatly
tied up hair in bun was in deep thoughts looking into nothingness; engrossed in
some deeper thoughts, least attentive to Pammi’s pleasantries. Her red and swollen
eyes were covered with big sunglasses. No more tears were left in her.
“Kaisa hai Rahul? Suna hai badi
tarakki kar raha hai?” She said taking seat next to Anandita.
“Hum bhi Kerala ja rahe hain, backwaters
ghoomne, inka LTA benefit use karenge ji. Rahengi na kuch din wahan Rahul ke
pass?” asked Pammi pressing her palms.
Slowly Anandita looked to Pammi
and said in low voice- “Rahul died last night in a car accident and I am going
for his cremation.”
Pammis cheer was replaced with
shock as her gaze moved from Anandita to her husband.
Hi Ma, Guess what, our agency
has bagged 6 awards apparently. It’s still unofficial. They will be announcing
the names at the award ceremony today evening. I am hoping my name will be one
of them. Pray for me. I am still wondering what to wear for the party. I know
you would like to see me in navy blue blazer but it’s too corporate for me. I
don’t know when the party will end, but I’ll try and call you, and hopefully
with some good news.
Anandita was greeted with extreme
humid weather in Trivandrum. Rahul’s colleague Sanjukta came to pick her from airport.
“How far is the house from
here?” asked Anandita looking through the gods own country which didn’t mean
anything to her at present.
“Do you want to go to house
first?” asked Sanjukta looking up from her mobile.
“We aren’t? Where is he?”
“Actually we didn’t want to
take him to the apartment. Housing society objected. They thought it might
traumatize the kids there. So, we moved him directly to crematorium from
hospital. Everyone has reached; they are all waiting for us.”
“Aunty, this is Mamta, our
director.” Sanjukta introduced Anandita to a malyali lady in her early forties.
“I was the one who called you
yesterday.” Said Mamta.
She was dark and slightly on a
heavier side. She was in black saree and oversized sunglasses covering half her
face. They sat there waiting for the electronic cremation to get over. Sanjukta
went to check on if it’s done leaving the two ladies to talk.
“Was he sober?” asked Anandita
continuing to look into distant trees.
Mamta removed her glasses but
didn’t say anything.
“Don’t hide; I can’t scold him
now anyways. How much did he actually have?”
“Why do you want to know?
Agreed you can’t scold him, you can’t do anything also right? Leave it.”
“Aunty, it’s done.” Sanjukta
said handing her the pot of ashes.
Anandita recalled how 25 years
back she held Babu for the first time; round face, almost bald head and tiny
eyes which were still closed. He was weighing light as feather. This was
probably the last time she would hold him but the weight was unbearable; so
heavy that she would not be able to carry it.
Mamta offered to drop Anandita at Rahul’s apartment. They stared at passing trees without any exchange of
“He was a sweet kid.” Mamta
broke the silence still looking outside. “He was a real asset for our group. We
all got an instant liking towards him; respectful to seniors and very dedicated
towards his work.”
“They have put the date
incorrectly. 18th is today.” Said Anandita absently looking at the death certificate
“Let me see.” Said Mamta taking
the certificate. “Yes, but it happened at 2:00 AM post-midnight so technically
“Where did it happen? Near KC
Road; do you want me to take you there?”
“No! Just wanted to know.”
“We’ll send someone tomorrow to
sign the insurance papers as you were the nominee. Is that ok?”
They reached home and Anandita
walked in collecting Rahul’s mobile and laptop from Mamta. As Anandita stepped
into the apartment…
“We are holding a small
condolence meeting tomorrow. We would like you to be there. Of course, if you
wish to opt out, we would understand.”
Anandita nodded and went in.
Hi Ma, My new address- 407 Ram
Vilas, SP Road. This is the office apartment. I will be shifting to in a week
or so. It’s about time I stop living out of suitcase.
She scanned the house recalling
the mail. She was glad that he taught her all about emailing before leaving for
his first job.
Hello Ma, Today is my 1st day in my office apartment. It’s a huge place. Almost 3 times our Sealdah house. I’m
not going to bother sending you any photos. You come and have a look yourself. It’s
not as per your taste but nicely done. The house is waiting for your finishing
touches. When Ma? When are u going to come?
She changed and sat in the
balcony thinking about Babu. Her eyes seemed stony without any expressions.
Hey Ma, there’s lovely breeze
here when you sit in balcony. I have got AC installed in one room only for you.
You know how much I hate cold. By the way my colleague Sanjukta has helped me
do up the place and I hope it’s going to be up to your liking. Come soon.
Was it very cold with all that
ice they put around you in the morgue? Must be very cold... whispered Anandita
to Rahul’s photo she was holding and tears started rolling uncontrollably.
Next morning Sanjukta came with
breakfast for Anandita. They had breakfast together and sipped tea near the table
with fish bowl.
“Did he drink too much that
“Yes, normally he didn’t drink
that much? With celebrations and all…”
“None of you guys stopped him?”
“No, who wants to kill the joy?
Moreover we were also high. Even if we would have asked, would he listen?”
“Why wouldn’t he? After all it
was an office party not a private affair? There has to be some decorum, some
restrictions. And they just let him drive back home in such inebriated state?”
“No, that’s not true. There
were 3 office cars waiting to drop us home. We all got dropped home. He could
have also gone. But no, he just refused.”
“Do you know exactly where it
“Yes, we all went there.”
“Can you drop me there? I want
to be there for some time.”
Sanjukta drove Anandita to KC
Road where Rahul met with the accident. The iron bars were still bent with
“How critical was he when cops
“Critical, very, but he was still
“What time did the ambulance
“I don’t know. By the time we
arrived he was already taken to hospital. Mamta got the news first. She was
with him in the ambulance.
“What did he wear that evening?”
“Navy blue blazer. He ordered a
new one. I will show you pictures tomorrow.”
“I want to stay here for some
time. You carry on. It’s getting late.”
“No ways. I am in no hurry. Take
as much time as you need.”
“What was his hurry at 2 in the
night? Every time he’s driving at night on empty roads, he has to zip through. I
have told him so many times Babu! Go slow, go slow. Ease off. What’s the hurry?”
Tears found their way while Anandita spoke.
Anandita reached home and
started packing Rahul’s belongings to be taken back to Sealdah. She saw the
fish bowl and asked Sanjukta to take it with her as Rahul’s memory.
“No, no, no. Sorry Aunty! I
can’t take it. In fact I never liked it. I hate life being caged. Caging
everyone, putting them in boxes! You see a beautiful bird and put in in a cage,
see colorful fishes and immediately keep it in the aquarium. Nonsense! Why do people
have to box everything? Set them free. Let them be what they are.”
Anandita thought, she was right.
Babu was free now. She thought how he was used to toddle about the dining room
and reach the kitchen to see her cook, waiting anxiously for her to look and
throw an endearing smile at him, and when she did, he would chuckle and clap
hands singing in his own baby language loudly, and eventually land on his bums.
He used to keep repeating the act while she was in the kitchen. And at the end
of it, when she was done with her chores, she would hug him and kisses followed
and he would sing even louder. Ahh! the joys of the first-born kids; in this
case the only kid. The thought of Babu’s childhood brought a subconscious smile
on her face.
Sanjukta noticed and asked what
it was that got her smile. Anandita looked at her and said, “Nothing just some
childhood things of Rahul. All I wanted was to love and protect my son…” said
Anandita hugging Sanjukta, tears rolling of her eyes.
“…and be with him for the rest
of my life. He would fade away from our lives and I don’t want that, I want him
back. I want to hold my Babu. I want to feed him and scold him when he does mistakes.
I want to hold him so tight so that he is never lost again.”
“Before going back, can we go
to that KC road again?” Anandita asked wiping her tears.
“Sure, I’ll take you there now
and will drop you at airport after that.”
They reached KC Road and found
the road to be deserted in the afternoon.
“Hey look they have repaired
the railing. Do you remember which 2 bars?” Asked Anandita.
“I think these 1st 2 bars”
“No, No it’s the 2nd
two bars I guess.”
“How come Trivandrum
Corporation is so prompt in fixing it?
“Maybe they wanted to speed up
the closure for us.”
Sealdah: Anandita reached home and
wrote to Sanjukta.
I have so much in my mind and
heart that I don’t know where to begin. You have been such good friends to my
son and so kind to me. You have helped me in so many ways, to help me know my
son better. I had come there to collect my son’s belongings. What I found was
much larger. He has left so much of himself with you all that it cannot be
packed away and so much of me also in the process. I’m sending enclosed some
pictures of you and Rahul as his remembrance to you. When Babu’s father passed
away five years back, I thought it was the worst day of my life, as f nothing
worse can ever happen. Then, this day! I
have survived his father’s absence but the void created is still there. Now,
Babu has deepened it further. But I have his emails and pictures which I didn’t
have of his fathers.
Trrriinnngggg… my mobile started
blaring enthusiastically in an effort to get me out of bed. Groggily I grazed
my hand on the bed hunting for the source of sound. Finding it hidden under
pillow, I killed it and tucked myself deeper in the sheets.
“It’s already eight o’clock. You
better get up if you want to reach office on time on your first day.” My mother
shouted from kitchen flipping the parathas.
“Eight O’clock!” I jumped out hearing
that as if I had been electrocuted. I can’t mess up on the first day of
joining. My dream job to join India’s biggest news channel Planet Plus had
finally come true. I got ready within no time. Stuffing one paratha, I ran. By
the time I reached office I witnessed a commotion on the floor and people were
running towards the farthest room.
“Team!” The chief editor of Planet
Plus, Subhash barked. “Get into the conference room right now. We got breaking
news and I want us to be the first one to cover the story.”
I joined the mob running towards the
conference room with their notepads and pens. Everyone wondered what could be
so important news. Had there been another terror attack or corruption? I
“What’s his problem first thing in the
morning yaar? I am still not fully awake.” said Sumit to Neha.
“I guess Telangana state formation had
been declared; In which case, I have a nice caption for front page headline-
India delivers at 66. What do you think?” asked Neha patting Sumit.
“Nice! I am sure it has to be that
news. Let’s go fast else he will start biting.”
The small but neatly decorated conference
room was full and everyone tried to the grab the available seat. The big oval
table in the center was facing 2 large TVs on opposite walls. Everyone was
guessing what could be the sensational news while waiting for Subhash to wrap-up
his call and disclose. Almost three-fourth was betting on Telangana state
formation while minority split was on corruption, political scandal or death of
a country’s high profile personality.
“Guys!” Everyone went quiet and gave
attention to Subhash. “There had been a gang-rape near Saket mall. Couple of
hours back a girl had been raped and brutally injured. She had been rushed to
AIIMS. I want you to be in the field right away and get it on air before any
Part of me got excited to be part of
high profile news on day one. While the other felt bad for the victim.
“Why is this rape such a big issue?
Every 10-15 minutes there’s a rape in India. We can cover a small article like
every other rapes that we publish.” interrupted Sumit.
“Couple of points Sumit; firstly it
happened in the country’s capital, which questions the safety of women across the
country. Secondly, it’s very gruesome. The rapists have cut off the breasts of
the victim.” Everyone cringed the moment they heard it. “Lastly, as opposition
is supporting our media group, they want this issue to be sensationalized to
get some political mileage for the upcoming elections.”
Subhash continued “Our papers have
already covered the basic details on front page but I want a complete story by
mid-day. Sumit, I want you to take your team to the hospital and cover it LIVE
from hospital. Talk to the parents, friends, relatives, school/college teachers,
neighbors anyone whom you can get in touch with. Dig into her personal life and
I want a complete coverage by 5:00 PM. importantly, check what her character
“But sir, her character... Don’t you
think we should be sensitive?” interrupted Sumit.
“See, as reporters it’s our moral
responsibility to show facts without bias. So, get there fast and report back. Hold
the character details for time-being; we’ll decide how to use it depending on
the situation in coming days.”
I was listening intently as the drama
was unfolding. As a new joinee I was experiencing how a newsroom works at the
backend. I was aware that politicians back media and news channels but now I
was going to be part of this circus.
“Yes Sir.” Saying this Sumit left the
“Neha, get a quote from Amitabh
Bachchan, SRK and Sridevi and keep the ticker rolling with the news.”
“Don’t you think we should get Salman
and Aamir instead of Sridevi?” said Neha excitedly.
“Neha! I don’t care what those 2 khans
think. I want Sridevi! She has 2 daughters and she is back with a big bang. She
is everywhere starting from movie openings to Vogue. SRK and Big B have
daughter and grand-daughter so public would be interested to know their
reactions. Don’t waste time on bachelors and stars with boys. Instead get a
quote from Kareena, Deepika and Priyanka. Also get quotes from Shobha De; see
if she can get you something interesting.”
“Understood sir! We need sensational
news.” Saying this Neha got up to leave the room.
“Neha! See if you can get some debatable
statements from Rakhi Sawant or Mallika Sherawat also.” Subhash said winking at
She smiled “I will” and left the room.
My mind wondered how Subhash, who lectured
Sumit on moral responsibility a minute back, had asked Neha to get dramatic news.
I was not able to decide what was the driving factor- money, power or morality?
Subhash scanned the room and looked at
Abhishek. “Abhi, I want you to get in touch with the Home Minister, the CM and some
opposition leaders for their quotes.”
“Yes Sir,” said Abhishek. I’ll go to
the parliament. It is in session today, I can get hold of most of the ministers
“Abhishek, how long you have been working?”
Subhash said exasperated. “Even an uneducated villager knows that they don’t
attend the sessions. Check with their PAs and see where they are and get their
Abhi didn’t say anything and left the
“Murli and Sunita, I want you to get
quotes from IT workers and college students and teachers. Get footage of some
girls in skirts or minis and some in salwar kameez/saree. Try to dramatize
while talking to them. Understood?”
“Got it sir.”
“Raghu, I want you to go to the
tourist spots and get quotes and feelers from foreigners. Ask them their
experiences specially women traveling alone. Ignore the nice climate and
hospitality part. Review your tape with me before rolling. I also want you to
identify 2 freelance foreign writers. One needs to write about worse experience
with molestations, groping she faced in India. The other needs to contradict
that and portray wonderful experience. Release both articles with a gap of 2 to
3 days. That will fuel debates across the country. Out you go.”
“Samar, you have two things to do.
First I want you to create a Facebook page demanding justice. It should demand capital
punishment. Push it through all the social circles and advertisers. I want at
least 50 thousand hits/likes before prime time. Ensure you do it from some
local internet cafe and it should not be traced to us.”
“I’ll get Arun to get some comic
strips also rolled out.” Added Samar pointing to Arun.
“Sounds good; do that. Secondly, get
the rape statistics across the world, country and states. Also try and get
India’s ranking with respect to safety of women in the world. Ensure that the
states where Normal Aadmi Party (NAP) is ruling, the numbers need to look low
compared to Social Janta Party (SJP).”
“But sir, we can’t tweak the numbers!
We are supposed to show the facts!”
“Samar, fuck the facts. You don’t get
paid for facts and no-one is going to validate them anyways. TRPs gets you your
paycheck on time and this is our chance to get that. We need to beat AbTak News
Channel this quarter. Show me the figures before relaying.”
“Arnab, I want you to take up this
issue in today’s prime time debate.”
“But sir, we have the telecom
corruption debate scheduled today.”
“Postpone that and apologize to the
“Ok, who all do you want for debate?”
“Try to get the CM or Home Minister
from the ruling party. I want you to get Shruti Irani and Grishma Swaraj from
opposition. Their high pitch screaming will make it interesting. Also ask
Jalebi Devi to join.”
“But sir, she can’t speak English and
our debate is in English.”
“That’s exactly why I want her; she is
from the ruling party and will be the comic factor for the show.” Subhash said
“Sir we can also call Mamta Rani from
the ‘Society For Woman’ (SOW) NGO. She is also a very aggressive lady.”
“No! No! Not her. Their NGO is
sponsored by SJP. We need Prabhavati Devi from AIAMA (All India Anti Male
Association). Their NGO is sponsored by NAP and she literally shouts her guts
out. Check out where she is and if she is available.”
“Got it sir.” Saying Arnab left to
prepare for his debate.
My mind was boggled with too much
information in a national news channel office. I was witnessing the news creation
“Rest; please continue with your
stories and prioritize this one if anything comes up.” Subhash looked at me and
asked me to follow him.
“Namit, I want you to do 2000 words on
this issue and run it through editor. This needs to be done by evening so that
it can go in tomorrow’s morning print. I’ll sit with you for briefing later
I left to cough my 2000 words, when
Arnab rushed to Subhash with terrified look- “Sir, Prabhavati Devi cannot make
it to the debate!”
‘Don’t worry; I’ll talk to minister
Patil. You carry on.”
Subhash rushed to his room and dialed
Ramanand Patil, NAP’s party leader. “Sir, all arrangements are done as
discussed. We need one help from you. We wanted Prabhavati Devi to attend
today’s debate but looks like she cannot make it.” Pause. “No problem sir, we can
patch her from her residence. Thank you Sir.”
At Ramanand’s Residence- Ramanand
dialed Prabhavatis personal number…
“Hi Patilji. How are you?”
“All that is fine, I want you to
attend the debate at Planet Plus primetime tonight.”
“Anything you say. Now tell me when
are we meeting? My husband is out of town for 2 days. Shall I come to the guest
house after the debate?”
‘No! Not today. Meet me after
tomorrow’s Woman’s Welfare Meeting.”
In the channel headquarters Subhash
and Arnab were happy that Prabhavati agreed to join the debate. My story was going
nowhere with the chaos and running around in the office. I was getting
distracted every few minutes with the TV wall where atleast a dozen TVs were
hanging tuned into every major news channel. Every correspondent was talking
the same issue and I was able to spot Sanjay from AbTak news channel broadcasting
LIVE from the hospital.
Sanjay: "Aaiye hum aap ko le chalte hai
AIIMS ke hospital pe jahan humaare samvaad daata deepak chaurasia maujood hai."
"haan Deepak kya aap hamey sun
sakte hai?" (Deepak is on screen and he is as blank as Laloo's 10th
board answer sheet)
"Deepak aapko humaari awaaz aa
Deepak: "haan Sanjay
boliye" (People behind Deepak desperate to come on TV were waving as
if stranded on an island for ages and trying to signal a far off ship in sight)
"Deepak, Is waqt wahan Abhaya ki
tabiyat kaisi hai? kya mahaul hai iss waqt wahaa par?"
Deepak: “Abhi hum AIIMS mein Abhaya ke room
ke saamne khade hain aur aapko bataa dein ki AbTak pehla channel hai jo ye
khabar aap tak la raha hai. Sanjay jaisa ki hum sab ko pataa hai aaj subah
Bharat ki Rajdhaani Dilli mein 4 yuvakon ne milkar Abahya ka saamuhik balatkar kiya
aur uske stan kaat diye. Subah se yahan saare news channel waalon ka taanta
laga hua hai…”
Sanjay: Ye batayiye ki kya Abhaya ko dard ho
raha hai? Use kaisa mehsoos ho raha hai?”
I turned back and came to my desk
hearing to the absurd questions that were being asked and broadcasted on a
national news channel. I found this more disturbing than the rape itself. Every
channel continued to show some or the other irrational and irresponsible piece
of information- starting from woman’s dressing to eating habits, makeup to
talking on cell phones, working late nights to boy-friends, Influence by Bollywood
item numbers to foreign culture and Internet. Surprisingly, none of the news
channels showed the rapists pictures or upbringing of boys while the victims’
photo was pasted on the screen all the time.
the day came to an end and I left office contemplating my decision to join as
journalist. Sitting in the taxi, I reflected back on my day. One peep into the
national news channels working day has completely changed my views about
everything in life. Everything looked questionable. Is anything real or just
hype created by media for selfish reasons? While engrossed in the thoughts, a little
girl started tapping the window pane trying to sell some magazines. Her tiny
body and saucer eyes made her resemble the classic poster girl for poverty. She
tapped on the window of my taxi and said, “Ek magazine lelo saab.’’ She
was shivering as she sold the magazines to motorists, most of whom shooed
her away. She possibly didn’t know about today’s incident, but she
knew that she would make some extra rupees by selling few magazines
till late night. And that made her happy! For the little girl, those few extra
rupees would translate into extra bread for dinner. She would probably never get to see the inside of apuccahouse. For her, the blue plastic
sheets have to suffice. When she is a little older, her life will change. The
day is not far when she will be raped in some alley and no-one would bother to question.
From selling magazines, she may end up selling her body. Like so many others
who survive on metro’s mean streets, turning tricks, hustling, peddling drugs.
Her bright eyes and cheerful smile will be replaced by a hard, stony expression
and a twisted mouth. But chances are she will still be working on the same
street, ducking into the back seat of an auto rickshaw to satisfy customers
looking for a monsoon quickie. Try telling herMera
Bharat Mahan. She might just punch you!
“Stop running your fingers through my
neckline, its tickling.” said Shikha giggling.
“Sorry love, but it’s what I’m meant
to do. It’s called passion. We’re in love.” Rohit said pulling Shikha closer to
“Passion! Love! I don’t know what the
hell you’re talking about. By the way, we are there.” She said as the car screeched
to a halt at the entrance of the restaurant.
Rohit got down and tossed the keys to
the valet attendant. He walked around to the passenger seat and escorted out
Shikha. Both of them walked into the restaurant, unaware of the black car which
stopped on the other side of the road.
Rohit led Shikha to the lobby and
asked her to get settled while he got a call. Shikha was escorted to their
usual corner table overseeing the moving traffic outside. It was a perfect
weather for a romantic dinner. She settled in her chair and started staring at
Rohit who was on call on the other end of the room. Rohit was a successful businessman’s
son and a certified playboy. He was in a dark leather jacket standing at 6
feet. She could not ignore how handsome he was with the stubble-wrapped
jawline. His spiked hair and boyish charm was making him even more endearing.
He saw her staring and tossed a flying kiss to her. She blushed and started
wondering- Is it going to be today? Is this going to be his last supper? She
has been putting away the task from past three days. It has to be done soon
before someone gets to see them together and she became a suspect. She fiddled
through and found the glass vial marked poison in the secret chamber of her
purse. She was told that it was king of poisons for its discreteness and
potency- it was virtually undetectable.
On the other end of the room Rohit was
speaking to Tony- his loyal man. He was listening attentively and processing
all the information being provided. He air-kissed her and she blushed. He
wondered how stunning she looked in that flowing blue dress. Her long unending
legs were to die for. He wondered how this is going to end. He pressed against
his side pocket to make sure his revolver is firmly fastened. He ended the call
and knew what to do.
Rohit came back, kissed her gently and
took the seat next to her. They held hands and started talking when the waiter
came with 2 glasses of wine. They ordered and got into their usual conversation.
Rohit told Shikha how much he loved her and passed on a small package. The gift
had a card which said- “For the love of
Clasping her hands like a child she
said- “Wow! All my favorites are right here, you, the wine and the surprise gift
is perfect.” She told him with a giggle. She slid the satin ribbon and opened
the package to see a beautiful bracelet shining at her. Her face lit up like a 4
year old toddler looking at her mother at the end of the school. She kept
staring at it while Rohit got up and offered to place the bracelet on her hand.
She obliged and they kissed.
The man on the other side of the road was
watching all the action unfolding through his binoculars. He gazed at the
couple from distance. His eyes seem cold and steely. He took a flask out of his
jacket and gulped a big swig of rum and waited patiently. He reached to the
dashboard and took out his 0.22 revolver. He double checked it to be loaded and
started fitting the silencer. He was all set and was waiting for their last
supper to end.
Meanwhile at the corner table in the
restaurant love was blooming. Shikha tilted her head slightly and asked- “So
how many girls did you bring to this place?”
“Many but none was like today.” He
said equally cocking his head.
“What’s so special about today?”
“It’s special today because I am in the
presence of my true love.”
She wondered how many times the line
was used. “True Love, hmm? What’s that?”
“hmm…True love is one soul’s
reflection in another.”
“Wow!!That’s really cheesy, but it
works for me.”
Shikha thought expensive gifts and
such make believe cheesy lines are what girls are falling for. But she had to
admit he has got those good looks and confidence to turn girls to him.
“So are you saying I am your true
love? You are lying and liars go straight to hell.” Though she knew there were
stronger reasons for him to go to hell.
“If you promise to be with me, I am
ready to go anywhere. But let’s finish our dinner; and then I will take you to
He gave a devilish grin squeezing her
palm and thought, enjoy your last supper sweetheart.
Shikha teased and excused herself to
the ladies room leaving Rohit alone.
Rohit was a 30-year old who fitted the
bill of a rich spoilt brat perfectly. He was Ambadas’s only son and his
reputation of Casanova preceded him. He was very charming and had the charisma
to make the girls swoon over him. When Shikha left the table he wondered what
she might be up to. The conversation with Tony flashed back in his mind.
“Sir, she is Mia’s elder sister and
has been enquiring about you since her death.” Rohit always had the habit to
get a background check of his dates and Tony was his guy to rely on.
Rohit thought what Shikha might be up
to. Does she want to talk about Mia? Does she know about Mia’s pregnancy? Does she
think he was responsible for her death? He was not able to figure out her
intentions. Come what may, he was ready to face her and all her interrogation
but will wait for her to initiate it.
As Shikha left the table, she felt her
heart was pounding so hard that it would explode out of her chest’ chamber
walls. She went into the ladies room and took a deep breath. When she looked up
she not only faced herself in the mirror but her fears also. She seemed nervous
thinking of what she was going to do. Her last interaction with her sister- Mia
Few months back…
It was late that night when she called
which was not normal on Mia’s part.
As soon as she picked the call, Mia
told in a panicky voice- “Shikha, I got to tell you something and need you
“What happened? Are you alright?”
“I am pregnant and just got to know
today. I am very scared.”
“Chotu! What are you saying? Who is
it?” Shikha knew it was not the time to scream and give her lessons on
“It’s Rohit. We have been seeing each
other for some time now.”
“Rohit, who? Did you tell him? What
did he say?”
“He is very nice guy dids. He is Amba
Textiles Company owner’s son. Today after the tests, I met and told him. He was
very happy and asked me to marry. He will be speaking to his parents today and
he wants me to meet them tomorrow.”
“Mia, everything is happening so fast
and I don’t know anything about this Rohit guy. Somehow I feel something is wrong.”
“Ufff oh Didi !!! Don’t get paranoid.
He is really sweet and tomorrow I’m going to get him to your place in the evening.”
“Yeah, please do that. We need to talk
and also I need to meet your Rohit also. I’m so happy for you chotu”
“I Love you Dids. Catch you tomorrow”
“Love you too. Take care Good night.”
Shikha was experiencing the complete
spectrum of feelings at the same time. She wished her parents were alive today
to handle the crisis. At the same time she knew she had to be strong to let
chotu sail through with ease. Finally after lot of agitated rounds of the room,
she thought of holding her calm till she meets Rohit next day. Strange dreams
kept her awake all night.
Next day Shikha woke up to the call of
Mia’s suicide. She was shattered and it didn’t take her long to figure out that
it was not a suicide. Her chotu was not brave enough to bleed herself to death.
But she didn’t have anything to prove and decided to solve the mystery herself.
She enquired all of chotu’s friends of any possible leads but it was not going
anywhere. Finally she thought probably she has to get it from Rohit himself;
But how? He won’t admit to the heinous crime. But does she need him to approve?
Who else could gain from Mia’s death? She knew that she doesn’t need any proof
because deep within she knows that it’s Rohit and he has to pay for it.
Flushing sound from the stall behind
broke her train of thoughts. She fiddled through her purse again and left the
Rohit looked nervous when Shikha
returned back to the table. Their meal arrived. Shikha noticed that Rohit was
poking his steak without eating much. She placed her hand on his and asked- “What
happened? Why did you get quiet all of a sudden?”
Rohit didn’t say much, but he could
feel the sudden tension building between them.
He continued eating. Shikha noticed he
seemed absent minded at the moment and this could be her moment.
She needed a diversion. She opened her
purse and let it fall from her lap making all the contents spread around.
“Shit, how clumsy am I, I am so sorry.”
Rohit offered to pick-up which is what
she was expecting.
As Rohit got down collecting all the
scattered stuff, she plunged and dropped few drops from the vial into his wine
glass. The mute lights and corner seat made it easy for her. It’s done.
She thanked him and they continued
eating. She finally did it. She overcame her fear and avenged her sister. Now,
it’s just a matter of time. She waited so long but these few minutes seem like
After what seemed like centuries he
finished his drink and they were ready to leave. She had a satisfied look on
her face. Mia would be happy where ever she is. Her death has been avenged. They
finished their meal and got up to leave. Rohit and Shikha came out of the
restaurant and waited for the valet to get his car. They got in and left. The
black car from the other side of the road also left tailing them.
She was wondering how long it’s going
to take for the effect when he complained of severe stomach ache. He stopped
the car on the deserted road. He got down and tried to throw-up when the black
car chasing them came to halt behind theirs. Shikha got down the car and before
she could reach to Rohit, the man got down from the car and shot her in the
head. She flew back and dropped dead. Rohit didn’t know what to do and took out
his revolver but he was too weak to do anything and he fainted.
The man dialed a number and waited for
it to be answered. The moment the call was picked he narrated everything that
happened. Tony screamed and asked the man to rush Rohit to the hospital
immediately. He picked Rohit and rushed to the hospital. The doctors declared Rohit
dead on arrival. Tony reached hospital as soon as he disconnected the call. He
was a loyal person to Rohit but only after Ambadas. He had been giving all
updates of Rohit to Ambadas. He was the one who killed Mia on Ambadas’s order
to uphold the family prestige. He has arranged to kill Shikha also but he was late
this time. He dialed Ambadas and the line went dead on hearing Rohits death.
Anita stood in front of the mirror and
watched herself before gliding fingers through her dark flowing hair. She
admired what she was seeing. And then she spotted the new grayness that started
budding up in her sideburns. It was not there few days back. Anita realized she
was getting old. She grabbed the chair and sat in front of the mirror applying
eyeliner to her eyes. She bent forward and took a closer look at the mark on her
right eyebrow. It has been more than 8 years since the incident but the gash
was still there reminding her of that dreadful night. She suddenly felt her
stomach churning loudly. She seized her tummy and slide down on the floor. It’s
happening again. All her memories were emerging back from the darkest corners
of her mind where she thought they have been locked. She gasped for breath. She
held the sill of the window and stood up inhaling the freshness of the garden. Weakly
she scanned the beautiful garden in her front yard but her eyes glued to the jasmine
tree which never bloomed in past 8 years. Her thoughts came flooding.
8 years earlier…
“Congratulations, you are pregnant and
all your reports look normal. You just have to keep eating healthy and have
sufficient sleep.” The doctors’ voice echoed in her head as she entered the
house with a big smile on her face. They have just shifted to their new house on
the outskirts of the city. Her complaint of sparse population and no neighbors around
were ignored by her husband- Ravi. But she ensured that the boundary walls were
high enough with barbed wires for her safety. She got inside and lit some
essence sticks in front of the deity thanking for the good news.
Ravi was on his way from his business
trip and she can’t wait for him to hear the news. She went into the kitchen and
started making preparations for the special rice pudding her mother had taught
her. She was totally charged up and was waiting eagerly for the clock to strike
8 PM. She finished mundane household chores and waited for Ravi to get home. Finally
the clock chimed 8 PM. She was elated; Ravi would be home any moment now. Anita
checked herself in the mirror again and made sure she looked her best. She went
near the window and excitedly waited for the gates to creek open. The hands on
the clock seem to be moving faster than usual. It was half past 8 now and
there’s been still no sign of Ravi. She was still standing at the window with
her eyes racing between the clock and the gate. She was feeling agitated and started
pacing the living room. Her pacing was interrupted with the loud clang of clock
banging 9 times. She got into the chair near the window and kept staring at the
gates. All kind of negative thoughts were making her more restless. She started
cracking her knuckles nervously when she heard the gates open. She was relieved
and rushed out.
Anita noticed that Ravi was drunk and
hardly able to walk straight. She rushed towards him and tried to support him
on her shoulders. She was horrified to see his bruised arms and clotted blood
on the forehead. Slowly she took him into the house and put him in the sofa. She
rushed and got some Dettol to clean the wounds. “What happened to you? Why are
you so drunk? How did you get injured? Did you get into a brawl in some bar or
were you attacked by someone?” She started shooting a volley of questions breathlessly.
He didn’t reply to any of her questions and tried to get-up. She held his hand
but he pushed her away and started going, mumbling something which she could
not make out. He started climbing the stairs to go to the bedroom. She ran and
supported him lest he slipped. He pushed her aside again and yelled- “I don’t
need you. Get away from me.” She stood there looking at him with tearful eyes. She
couldn’t understand what’s wrong with him?
She followed him and went and tried to
speak to him. “Ravi, what happened? Tell me please” he looked at her and handed
her an envelope. Anita was not sure what it was. She opened the envelope with
trembling hands to find her pictures with Sameer.
Sameer was Ravi’s friend and a
bachelor staying alone. He used to be a regular visitor to their place for
dinners. Ravi’s marketing job kept him out of town all the time and Anita was left
Anita started finding company and
comfort in Ravi’s absence. His constant travels and lack of companionship she
expected got her closer to Sameer eventually. It’s been sometime they have
developed a connection and their love had bloomed. Ravi was unaware of all this
development and never suspected either of them.
She didn’t know how to react or what
to say. She stood there motionless trying to figure out what’s going on in Ravi’s
mind. She put her hand on his shoulder and said- “Ravi, let me explain.” Ravi
removed her hand from his shoulder and slapped her. She fell on the table
nearby and her eyebrow started bleeding. He picked her and held her shoulders
and asked- “How could you do this to me? I loved you so much.”
He pulled her closer into tight grip
and held her throat- “I can’t live with you anymore. It’s over between us.” She
was feeling the grip tightening, gasping for breath. When she could not take
any more, she pushed him aside and moved back panting. Ravi, in his drunken
state lost control and tumbled down the stairs.
Anita ran down screaming- “Raviiii…”
but it was too late. His skull smashed open and blood pool was growing with
every passing second. She was horrified looking at the scene in front of her. After
few minutes which felt like ages, she realized what she had to do. So, she
dialed the number and waited with a baited breath for the call to be answered.
“Hello, this is Sameer speaking; who
is it?” The voice from the other end echoed. She said- “Sameer come home
urgently. Don’t ask anything, just come home NOW.”
“Ok, but tell me what happened? Are
you okay? Did you and Ravi have a fight?” He asked realizing her chocked voice
over the phone.
She told “I can’t speak over the phone.
Please come home immediately.”
“Don’t worry, I am coming right away”
He said realizing the panic in her voice.
Sameer reached Ravi’s place and was
stunned to witness the scene. He saw Ravi in the puddle of blood lifeless.
Anita was on the other end of the room in a shocked state sitting still looking
at the body. Sameer entered home and closed the door. He went to Anita and
hugged her as she broke in his arms. He tried to console her and told her that
he had a fight with Ravi at his place. Anita narrated everything that happened
and how Ravi fell to his death. Anita was trembling with fear and could hardly
form complete sentences. Sameer was equally worried thinking what to do next?
How can this be explained to everyone? Who would believe their innocence if
people get to know that Anita and he were having an affair?
Sameer agitatedly started marching in
the living room while Anita was hysterically blabbering something in a state of
shock. The banging of clock jolted them to the reality. Sameer rushed to the
garage and on his way back saw that the street was totally deserted at that
hour of night. Few canines were patrolling the street with their tails held
high. He got the shovel and started digging ground in the garden. Anita
understood what’s happening. When the hole was sufficient enough they checked
the roads again. The canines seem to have lost interest in the deserted street
and left but their howling could be heard from distance. They went inside and
picked Ravi’s body and dumped him in the garden. Sameer leveled the ground
while Anita was keeping a watch on the street for any human movement. By
midnight they were done with the garden work. They went inside and started
mopping and cleaning the living room. By the time they cleaned everything it
was well past midnight and they were exhausted.
They went upstairs and took shower
together. Anita was still in a state of shock and Sameer was also fatigued.
They came out and got into the bed together. They laid there without speaking
anything for long time. Anita broke the silence- “I’m pregnant.” Sameer was
pleasantly surprised and kissed her. To keep her mind away from all that
happened, he asked what the doctor said. They spoke about the probable names and
possibility of it being a boy or a girl. Suddenly Anita got up and sat. She
turned to him and asked “what do I say when people ask about Ravi? “
Sameer thought for a while and then
told her “Don’t worry about anything. Since you moved recently no-one would
notice him missing. Don’t say anything to anyone. In-case, anyone enquires,
tell them you got divorced. Moreover he doesn’t have any close relatives’ so, no-one
Anita felt little skeptical but
thought the idea might work because there were no intrusive neighbors around.
Sameer added, “After sometime we can
Anita nodded consenting to the plan
and they discussed whole night trying to fill any possible gaps in the story.
Sameer left home before dawn.
Later around mid-day he went to a
nursery and brought grass sod and rushed to Anita’s house. There they laid the
new grass sods across the fresh dugout area carefully and watered it. High
fence and lack of visitors helped them. He also got a jasmine plant and planted
In the next few days the story of
Anitas divorce and second wedding flew across her friends like a wild fire.
Even though some might have suspected something to be wrong, no-one bothered enough
to probe the issue. It had been now eight years since the jasmine shrub was
planted but it never blossomed. Anita thought if only trees could speak what
would the jasmine tree say?